Transition to Market Economy in Many Parts of Eastern Europe Accompanied by Falls in Women's Share of Paid Employment Along With Major Job Losses for Women
For immediate release
Date: 1 June 2000
Oisika Chakrabarti, Media Specialist, UN Women Headquarters, +1 646 781-4522,
United Nations, New York — A new economic report issued by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has found that women's share of paid employment in industry and services has increased in most regions of the world, with the exception of parts of Eastern Europe. There are only eleven countries in the world where women's share of paid employment in industry and services is around 50 per cent.
UNIFEM's new biennial report, Progress of the World's Women 2000, investigates women's status in the context of globalization from the mid 1980s through the late 1990s. It shows that the largest increases in women's share of paid employment in industry and services (15 per cent or more) were in Italy (23 to 38%), Portugal (30 to 46%), Slovenia (34 to 49%) and Sri Lanka (24 to 44%). However women's share fell in some countries in Eastern Europe: Lithuania, Ukraine and Estonia.
Moreover, the level of women's employment fell in many countries of Eastern Europe during the transition to the market economy. From 1985 to 1997, women's employment fell by 40 per cent in Hungary, 31 per cent in Estonia, 33 per cent in Latvia, 24 per cent in Lithuania, 21 per cent in the Russian Federation, 16 per cent in Slovenia, 12 per cent in the Czech Republic and 13 per cent in Poland.
"In times of economic transition, when state-run businesses privatize and a market economy is ushered in, women and girls often pay the price, especially when services such as day care and health care are cut back," said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM who spearheaded the report. "Progress 2000 points to the large proportion of work women perform that is often invisible to economic decision-makers, particularly women's unpaid work caring for families and communities and the informal sector labor of street vendors and home-based workers."
The report makes clear that global agreements made in the last decade to advance women's progress have not included targets relating to women's economic equality or to women's poverty, but have focused instead on gender equality in educational enrolment and women-specific health targets. Progress 2000 recommends the adoption of globally agreed goals specific to women's economic progress, including ending women's disproportionate presence among the poor by 2015, and raising women's share of administrative and managerial positions to at least 30 per cent by 2005 and to at least 50 per cent by 2015.
Governments to Review Progress
From June 5-9, world leaders will convene at the United Nations in New York for the five-year review of women's progress since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Progress 2000 provides innovative suggestions for strengthening government and corporate accountability and commitment to advancing women's' economic status. This ranges from providing training to undertaking a gender analysis of national budgets to developing codes of conduct to increase corporate social responsibility. The report also offers tools to monitor how government budgets and policies, and corporate operations and business practices, specifically affect women.
"This report forcefully reminds governments and corporations that more people will benefit from globalization if women are active in setting agendas and reshaping global economic rules," Heyzer said. "UNIFEM is urgently calling upon governments, international financial institutions and corporations to renew their commitments to women's economic status in the face of new constraints and opportunities posed by globalization."
The report's extensive research is supported by detailed accounts of successful efforts already being made to ensure women's fair participation in economic policy making at the national and global level. Stories of successful change strategies featured in Progress 2000 include women workers forging new partnerships between corporations and trade unions to improve labor conditions, poor women forming collectives to introduce their products into global markets and negotiate for better terms and prices, and women's organizations collaborating with governments to recognize how expenditures advance and constrain women's progress.
Equality in Employment Requires Equality in Unpaid Care Work
Dr. Diane Elson, Coordinator of the report and a Professor of Development in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, says women's entry into waged and salaried work does not necessarily mean they are escaping from subordination within their families and societies.
"Many women employed part-time or through temporary work receive lower wages, limited career prospects and fewer employment rights than full-time jobs," she said. "Though the quantity of jobs may have increased, the quality of women's work has not. Women still contribute 70 per cent of the total devoted time devoted to unpaid care work, providing care to their families and communities. This compares to men who contribute only 30 per cent of their time spent on such work."
Women Make Gains in Decision-Making Occupations: U.S. Leads With Highest Share of Women in Managerial and Economic Decision-Making Positions
Women are doing more of the work but are they getting a greater voice in how work is carried out?
Women Forming Small Businesses in Most Regions
Women's share of work as an employer or as a self-employed person is rising in all regions except Northern Africa and Central Asia.
Broader Measures Needed
Targets are a vital first step says Elson, but we need more of them - along with indicators of the extent to which countries have been able to reach them. The classic case she added is that of gender disparities in income. Progress 2000 reveals the following:
Data on the gender wage gap are likely to reflect the earnings of full-time formal sector employees, since surveys tend to omit part-time, home-based seasonal and temporary employees and do not cover very small enterprises.
Economic Inequality Among Women
Progress 2000 states that income inequality is likely growing among women, with highly educated women enjoying rising incomes and good employment conditions while women with less education have stagnant or falling incomes.
Income inequality has been rising in most countries over the last 15 years. This means that poor women are unlikely to have benefited much from progress in closing gender gaps in the economy, says Elson.
UNIFEM is the women's fund at the United Nations that provides financial support and technical assistance to innovative programs promoting women's human rights, their economic and political empowerment, and gender equality in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Latin American and the Caribbean.
With programs in more than 100 countries, UNIFEM advocates within the UN system to link women's interests and concerns to critical issues on the national, regional and global agenda. For more information visit the organization's website at www.undp.org.