Gender equality

Just as the countries of the region are at different stages of economic development, they also have different contexts and challenges concerning equality between women and men. However, there are some common trends reflecting the status of men and women on the labour market and their expected roles, based on values and traditions in society and within the family.

The Soviet legislation contained provisions guaranteeing equal opportunities for men and women, including in the economic and labour sphere. However, in the Soviet period the tendency for women was to occupy more “feminine” occupations, spending more time bringing up children, being provided with different bonuses and benefi ts by the state. Women could easily come back to their previous working place, having the state guarantee against unemployment. At the same time the men traditionally performed the function of the bread–winner and occupied higher positions, including at the decision–making level, though the quota of 30% of these positions was guaranteed for women. During the transition period many women had to leave the formal economy for the informal sector to be able to feed their families, thus losing social protection and job security. Today the economic activity of women in the region remains rather high and constitutes around 80 women per 100 men. At the same time, women’s share in fast–developing and highly paid sectors is decreasing, industrial and occupational segregation is growing, and more women stay jobless for a long period of time.

In most countries of the region women still get 60–80% of an average men’s salary, depending on the country and the sector. Women are also limited by the “glass–ceiling”, which prevents them from occupying decision–making positions, and they often face direct and/or “hidden discrimination” on the labour market. Though family structures and gender roles have greatly modified of late, the traditional stereotype based on a male breadwinner is still prevalent in most countries, which has a negative impact on women and men workers who try to both work and care for their children.

Another alarming trend is the drastic decline in women’s participation in decision–making processes and politics. Their representation in national parliaments is at an average around 10%.

The ILO promotes opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Thus ILO considers gender equality as a key element in its vision of Decent Work for All Women and Men. For this reason, the organization aims to support its constituents – governments, and workers’ and employers’ organizations – to bring gender equality into practice. We work with our constituents to:
  • promote the ILO gender equality standards and their application, namely the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation ) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981 (No. 156) and the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183);
  • promote social dialogue that captures the concerns and needs of both women and men and encourage governments, workers and employers to integrate gender issues in their policies and actions;
  • support women entrepreneurship development;
  • introduce the ILO Gender Participatory Audit methodology as an effective tool to monitor and assess the progress made in gender mainstreaming; and
  • broaden strategic partnerships on gender equality with new important actors, such as mass media, national institutions dealing with youth and educational establishments.

Better access to decent jobs, education and decision– making organs remain to be key challenges for women in the region. Our message is that providing decent work opportunities for both women and men will help nations to more effectively address a wide range of issues, including poverty reduction, economic development, improving social security and social protection. The progress in advancing gender equality largely depends on awareness of – and addressing systematically at all levels, from Parliament to local administrative bodies, enterprises, families, and individuals – the specific and often different concerns and needs of women and men.