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Women’s economic security declines, former Soviet

Women’s economic security declines in former Soviet and European states – UN study

Women’s economic security has declined following the collapse of state socialism in Central and Eastern Europe and the western countries of the former Soviet Union, and available statistics could be masking an even worse situation, according to a new United Nations study launched this week.

Although women across the region are on average better educated than men, they are paid significantly less no matter what sector, public or private, or what occupation they work in, according to the study - The Story Behind the Numbers: Women and Employment in Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Commonwealth of Independent States.

While existing statistics indicate that the transition has not resulted in a large-scale increase in gender inequality, since men’s position also decreased and living standards and work conditions for most people have ‘levelled down,’ the study, launched by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), points to trends that indicate the likelihood of a longer-term deterioration in women’s situation relative to that of men.

For example, women now comprise a larger share of public sector employees than they did in the early years of the transition while the vast majority of male employees, particularly in European Union (EU) member states, currently work in the private sphere.

Importantly, the consequences of working in the public sphere, where jobs are generally of low status and underpaid, have become more onerous in light of the withdrawal of state subsidies to child care and other services since the beginning of transition.

The study, using statistical data from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), highlights several questions to which the available statistics cannot by themselves provide answers, including changes in status and wage levels of public sector versus private sector jobs, the increase in different forms of informal employment and the distribution of women and men across them.

The UNECE database is an essential foundation for analysis, but “efforts to strengthen it are critical to improve the availability and comparability of statistics to measure the economic status of women,” UNIFEM regional programme director Osnat Lubrani said.

“Limited measures of gender inequality presented outside the broader socio-economic context, could lead to inaccurate conclusions about the real situation women are facing, masking economic hardship, discrimination and declining living standards for many,” she added.

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