Location: Europe

Sanctions on Russia: Getting the Facts Right

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The important strategic role that sanctions play in the efforts to constrain Russia’s geopolitical ambitions and end its brutal war on Ukraine is often questioned and diminished in the public debate. This policy brief, authored by a collective of experts from various countries, shares insights on the complexities surrounding the use of sanctions against Russia, in light of its illegal aggression towards Ukraine. The aim is to facilitate a public discussion based on facts and reduce the risk that the debate falls prey to the information war.

Sanctions are a pivotal component in the array of strategies deployed to address the threat posed by Russia to the rule-based international order. Contrary to views minimizing their impact, evidence and research suggest that sanctions, particularly those targeting Russian energy exports, have significantly affected Russia’s macroeconomic stability [1,2,3]. Between 2022 and 2023, merchandise exports fell by 28 percent, the trade surplus decreased by 62 percent, and the current account surplus dropped by 79 percent (see the Bank of Russia’s external sector statistics here). Although 2022 represents an extraordinarily high baseline due to the delayed impacts from energy sanctions, the $190 billion decrease in foreign currency inflows during this time has already made a significant difference for Russia. This amount is equivalent to about two years of Russia’s current military spending, or around 10 percent of Russia’s yearly GDP, depending on the figures. Our estimates suggest that Russia’s losses due to the oil price cap and import embargo alone amount to several percent of its GDP [3,4]. These losses have contributed to the ruble’s continued weakness and have forced Russian authorities to sharply increase interest rates, which will have painful ripple effects throughout the economy in the coming months and years. Furthermore, the international sanctions coalition’s freezing of about $300 billion of the Bank of Russia’s reserves has significantly curtailed the central bank’s ability to manage the Russian economy in this era of war and sanctions.

Sanctions Enforcement

Addressing the enforcement of sanctions, it is crucial to acknowledge the extensive and continuous work undertaken by governments, think tanks, and the private sector to identify and close loopholes that facilitate sanctions evasion. Suggesting that such efforts are futile, often with arguments that lack solid evidence, potentially undermines these contributions, and furthermore provides (perhaps unintended) support to those advocating for a dismantling of the sanctions regime. We do not deny that several key aspects are facing challenges, from the oil price cap to export controls on military and dual-use goods. However, the path forward is to step up efforts and strengthen the implementation and enforcement – not to abandon the strategy altogether. Yes, Russia’s shadow fleet threatens the fundamental mechanism of the oil sanctions and, namely its reliance on Western services [4,5,6]. However, recent actions by the U.S. Treasury Department have shown that the sanctioning coalition can in fact weaken Russia’s ability to work around the energy sanctions. Specifically, the approach to designate (i.e., sanction) individual tankers has effectively removed them from the Russian oil trade. More vessels could be targeted in a similar way to gradually step-up the pressure on Russia [7]. While Russia continues to have access to many products identified as critical for the military industry (for instance semiconductors) [8], it has been shown that Russia pays significant mark-ups for these goods to compensate for the many layers of intermediaries involved in circumvention schemes. Sanctions, even when imperfect, thus still work as trade barriers. In addition to existing efforts and undertakings, companies which help Russia evade export controls can be sanctioned, even when registered in countries outside of the sanctioning coalition. Furthermore, compliance efforts within, and against, western companies, who remain extremely important for Russia, can be stepped up.

The Russian Economy

Many recent newspaper articles have been centered around the theme of Russia’s surprisingly resilient economy. We find these articles to generally be superficial and missing a key point: Russia is transitioning to a war economy, driven by massive and unsustainable public spending. In 2024, military spending is projected to boost Russia’s GDP growth by at least 2.5 percentage points, driven by a planned $100 billion in defense expenditures [9]. However, seeing this for what it is, namely war-spending, raises significant concerns about the sustainability of this growth, as it eats into existing reserves and crowds out investments in areas with a larger long-term growth potential. The massive spending also feeds inflation in consumer prices and wages, in particular as private investment levels are low and the labor market is short on competent labor. This puts pressure on monetary policy causing the central bank to increase interest rates even further, to compensate for the overly stimulating fiscal policy.

Further, it is important to bear in mind that, beyond this stimulus, the Russian economy is characterised by fundamental weaknesses. Russia has for many years dealt with anaemic growth due to low productivity gains and unfavourable demographics. Since the first round of sanctions was imposed on Russia, following its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, growth has hovered at around 1 percent per year on average – abysmal for an emerging market with catch-up potential. More recently, current sanctions and war expenditures have made Russia dramatically underperform compared to other oil-exporting countries [10]. Moreover, none of the normal (non-war related) growth fundamentals is likely to improve. Rather, the military aggression and the ensuing sanctions have made things worse. Hundreds of thousands of Russians have been killed or wounded in the war; many more have left the country to either escape the Putin regime or mobilization. Those leaving are often the younger and better educated, worsening the already dire demographic situation, and reinforcing the labor market inefficiencies. Additionally, with the country largely cut off from the world’s most important financial markets, investments in the Russian economy are completely insufficient [11].

As a result, Russia will be increasingly dependent on fossil fuel extraction and exports, a strategy that holds limited promise as considerations related to climate change continue to gain importance. With the loss of the European market, either due to sanctions or Putin’s failed attempt to weaponize gas flows to Europe, Russia finds itself dependent on a limited number of buyers for its oil and gas. Such dependency compels Russia to accept painful discounts and increases its exposure to market risks and price fluctuations [12].

The Cost of Sanctions

Sanctions have not been without costs for the countries imposing them. Nonetheless, the sanctioning countries are in a much better position than Russia. Any sanction strategy is necessarily a tradeoff between maximizing the sanctioned country’s economic loss while minimizing the loss to the sanctioning countries [9], but there are at least two qualifications to bear in mind. The first is that some sanctions imply very low losses – if any – while others may carry limited short term losses but longer term gains. This includes the oil-price cap that allows many importing countries to buy Russian oil at a discount [3], and policies to reduce energy demand, which squeezes Russia’s oil-income [13]. These policies may also initially hurt sanctioning countries, but in the long term facilitate an investment in energy self-sufficiency. Similarly, trade sanctions also imply some protection of one’s own industry, meaning that such sanctions may in fact bring benefits to the sanctioning countries – at least in the short run. The second qualification is that, in cases where sanctions do imply a cost to the sanctioning countries, the question is what cost is reasonable. Russia’s economy is many times smaller than, for instance, the EU’s economy. This gives the EU a strategic advantage akin to that in Texas hold’em poker: going dollar for dollar and euro for euro, Russia is bound to go bankrupt. Currently, Russia allocates a significantly larger portion of its GDP to its war machine than most sanctioning countries spend on their defense. That alone suggests sanctioning countries may want to go beyond dollar for dollar as it is cheaper to stop Russia economically today than on a future battlefield. This points to the bigger question: what would be the future cost of not sanctioning Russia today? Many accredit the weak response from the West to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 as part of the explanation behind Putin’s decision to pursue the current full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Similarly, an unwillingness to bear limited costs today may entail much more substantial costs tomorrow.

When discussing the cost of sanctions, one must also take into account Russia’s counter moves and whether they are credible [14]. Often, they are not [3, 15]. Fear-inducing platitudes, such that China and Russia will reshape the global financial system to insulate themselves from the West’s economic statecraft tools, circulate broadly. We do not deny that these countries are undertaking measures in this direction, but it is much harder to do so in practice than in political speeches. For instance, moving away from the U.S. dollar (and the Euro) in international trade (aside from in bilateral trade relations that are roughly balanced) is highly challenging. In such a trade, conducted without the U.S. dollar, one side of the bargain will end up with a large amount of currency that it does not need and cannot exchange, at scale, for hard currency. As long as a transaction is conducted in U.S. dollar, the U.S. financial system is involved via corresponding accounts, and the threat of secondary sanctions remains powerful. We have seen examples of this in recent months, following President Biden’s executive order on December 22, 2023.

One of Many Tools

Finally, we and other proponents of sanctions do not view them as a panacea, or an alternative to the essential military and financial support that Ukraine requires. Rather, we maintain that sanctions are a critical component of a multi-pronged strategy aimed at halting Putin’s unlawful and aggressive war against Ukraine, a war that threatens not only Ukraine, but peace, liberty, and prosperity across Europe. The necessity for sanctions becomes clear when considering the alternative: a Russian regime with access to $300 billion in the central bank’s reserves, the ability to earn billions more from fossil fuel exports, and to freely acquire advanced Western technology for its military operations against Ukrainian civilians. In fact, the less successful the economic statecraft measures are, the greater the need for military and financial aid to Ukraine becomes, alongside broader indirect costs such as increased defense spending, higher interest rates, and inflation in sanctioning countries. A case in point is the West’s provision of vital – yet expensive – air defense systems to Ukraine, required to counteract Russian missiles and drones, which in turn are enabled by access to Western technology. Abandoning sanctions would only exacerbate this type of challenges.

Conclusion

The discourse on sanctions against Russia necessitates a nuanced understanding of their role within the context of the broader strategy against Russia. It is critical to understand that shallow statements and misinformed opinions become part of the information war, and that the effectiveness of sanctions also depends on all stakeholders’ perceptions about the sanctioning regime’s effectiveness and long run sustainability. Supporting Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian aggression is not a matter of choosing between material support and sanctions; rather, Ukraine’s allies must employ all available tools to ensure Ukraine’s victory. While sanctions alone are not a cure-all, they are indispensable in the concerted effort to support Ukraine and restore peace and stability in the region. The way forward is thus to make the sanctions even more effective and to strengthen the enforcement, not to abandon them.

References

[1] “Russia Chartbook”. KSE Institute, February 2024

[2] “One year of sanctions: Russia’s oil export revenues cut by EUR 34 bn”. Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, December 2023

[3] “The Price Cap on Russian Oil: A Quantitative Analysis”. Wachtmeister, H., Gars, J. and Spiro, D, July 2023

[4] Spiro, D. Gars, J, and Wachtmeister, H. (2023). “The effects of an EU import and shipping embargo on Russian oil income,” mimeo

[5] “Energy Sanctions: Four Key Steps to Constrain Russia in 2024 and Beyond”. International Working Group on Russian Sanctions & KSE Institute, February 2024

[6] “Tracking the impacts of G7 & EU’s sanctions on Russian oil”. Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air

[7] “Russia Oil Tracker”. KSE Institute, February 2024

[8] “Challenges of Export Controls Enforcement: How Russia Continues to Import Components for Its Military Production”. International Working Group on Russian Sanctions & KSE Institute, January 2024

[9] “Russia Plans Huge Defense Spending Hike in 2024 as War Drags”. Bloomberg, September 2023

[10] “Sanctions and Russia’s War: Limiting Putin’s Capabilities”. U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 2023

[11] “World Investment Report 2023”. UNCTAD

[12] “Russia-China energy relations since 24 February: Consequences and options for Europe”. Swedish Institute of International Affairs, June 2023

[13] Gars, J., Spiro, D. and Wachtmeister, H. (2022). “The effect of European fuel-tax cuts on the oil income of Russia”. Nature Energy, 7(10), pp.989-997

[14] Spiro, D. (2023). “Economic Warfare”. Available at SSRN 4445359

[15] Gars, J., Spiro, D. and Wachtmeister, H., (2023). “Were Russia’s threats of reduced oil exports credible?”. Working paper

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Trending? Social Media Attention on Russia’s War in Ukraine

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one of the most important geopolitical events of the 21st century. For almost two years, international news outlets have been covering the war, often providing daily or even hourly updates. But what is the level of public interest and public engagement in countries around the world? When does the war capture an international audience’s attention and what are the events that supplant it? This brief uses data on X (formerly Twitter) trends in 62 countries to address these questions.

The competition for attention is a defining feature of our information landscape. From the relentless stream of social media updates to the myriad of news articles vying for our clicks, individuals are constantly bombarded with information, each competing for a slice of their limited attention. Amidst this cacophony of voices, certain topics rise to the forefront, capturing the collective consciousness and dominating public discourse.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has, for obvious reasons, commanded significant media coverage over the past two years. It has been described as a hybrid war, where conventional military tactics are increasingly combined with non-traditional methods. This includes an information war, fought with narratives to manipulate people’s perceptions, spread falsehoods, or enlist support. To a large extent, this information war has taken place on social media. On the one hand, social media platforms have been used to spread disinformation and propaganda. For example, we’ve seen the spread of false narratives about the causes of the war, the actions of the different parties involved, and the suffering of the Ukrainian people. But on the other hand, social media has also been used to counter this disinformation, with fact-checking initiatives and grassroots efforts to promote accurate information.

This policy brief analyses the prominence of the war in social media discourse. While the content on traditional media outlets provides a snapshot of the supply of information, platforms like X/Twitter offer a unique window into the broader population’s demand for that information and how they evolve over time. Whether or not hashtags related to Russia’s war in Ukraine are trending in a given country, depends not just on the public’s interest in the war relative to other events in the news, but also on the level of interest relative to sport, music, television, and cats. By tracking the prevalence of trending hashtags, we can gain insights into the public’s engagement with Russia’s war in Ukraine, going beyond traditional media narratives and high-level governmental discussions to uncover the conversations and sentiments that shape broader public opinion.

The X/Twitter data suggest that in most countries, social media attention in the Russian war on Ukraine has been short-lived and sporadic. On February 24, 2022, Ukraine-related hashtags were trending in 100 percent of the countries in our dataset. Two weeks later, on March 9, 2022, they were trending in only 3 percent of the countries. We find that geographical proximity to the conflict is a strong predictor of social media interest. Related hashtags trend most frequently in Eastern, Central and Northern Europe. We also document spikes in interest around events that link a country to the war in Ukraine: announcements of military assistance or visits by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyj. Finally, we compare the hashtags trending in NATO countries to those trending in countries that either sided with Russia or abstained from voting in a critical UN resolution and show significant differences between the two groups.

Data and Methodology

The source for our dataset is archive.twitter-trending.com – a website that records trending hashtags on X/Twitter across countries and over time. We scrape this website to collect (i) the five highest volume topics in each country on each day and (ii) the five longest-trending topics in each country on each day (these two categories can overlap). Our sample consists of the 62 countries available on the website and covers the timeframe July 2021 to December 2023. From this, we construct a country-by-day panel dataset with 55,862 observations.

We identify 11 topic categories that collectively account for the overwhelming majority of trending topics related to Russia’s war in Ukraine. These topics and their relative frequency are shown in Figure 1. The three dominant categories are “Ukraine”, “Russia” and ”Putin”. We use Google’s translation software to translate non-English tweets which account for a significant fraction of the dataset.

Figure 1. Frequency of hashtags in 11 category topics.

Note: This chart shows the number of times topics assigned to our 11 war-related categories were among the top five longest trending topics (in orange) or the top five highest volume topics (in blue) in any country on any day in our dataset. The source are data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

Figure 1 shows that it is more common for war-related topics to be among the highest volume topics on a given day than among the longest trending topics. This suggests that these topics attract a lot of interest in a narrow timeframe (e.g. when news breaks) but are relatively less likely to remain prominent over a whole day. Despite this difference, we find that the distinction between highest-volume and longest-trending does not affect any of the patterns we observe when comparing across countries or time. For simplicity, the results shown below all use the highest-volume measure.

It is important to acknowledge the limitations of the X/Twitter data. Firstly, the population actively using X/Twitter is not representative of the overall population. Secondly, the composition of users may differ across countries which complicates cross-country comparisons. Trending hashtags provide an indicator of public interest that is informative only because we do not have high frequency, nationally representative surveys that are comparable across countries. Finally, we are only able to observe the top-five hashtags in a country on any given day. In principle, a war-related topic could increase in absolute volume from one day to the next, while still being crowded out of the top five.

Geographic Variation in Attention

Social media attention to the war in Ukraine varies greatly across countries. The map in Figure 2 shows the proportion of days when any hashtag from the considered categories was among the top-five most tweeted, for each country in the database since the start of the war. Interest has, on average, been higher in Europe as well as in Anglo-Saxon countries. In contrast, other regions of the world exhibited less sustained interest, as indicated by the lower frequency of related hashtags among the top-five most tweeted topics.

Figure 2. Prevalence of war-related hashtags.

Note: The map shows the share of days on which war-related hashtags (in our 11 categories) were among the top five highest volume topics on X/Twitter between 24/02/2022 and 18/12/2023. Countries in white are not among the 62 countries in the dataset. The source are data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

To some extent, this heterogeneity is explained by distance. Figure 3 plots the frequency of war-related trends against geographical proximity to the conflict zone (represented by the distance from each country’s capital to the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, a major point of focus during the ongoing war). The relationship is clearly negative, suggesting that physical distance from the crisis reduces the intensity of online discourse and public interest. Unsurprisingly, the number of related trends is highest in countries directly or indirectly involved in the conflict – Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus – as well as in Latvia which borders both Russia and Belarus.

Figure 3. Frequency of war-related hashtags and distance from Kharkiv.

Note: The chart shows the log of the distance from each country’s capital city to the city of Kharkiv in km on the x-axis and the logged frequency of war-related topics among the top five highest volume topics in that country between 24/02/2022 and 18/12/2023 on the y-axis. The source are data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

Variation in Attention Over Time

Over the past two years, the war has sustained a relatively high intensity. By contrast, global attention on X/Twitter has been more sporadic, spiking around specific events. This is shown in Figure 4, which plots the day-to-day variation in the number of battle events as recorded by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) (in blue) as well as the share of countries where war-related tweets are trending (in orange). Attention was highest at the time of the invasion in February 2022 and the days of the Wagner Group rebellion in June 2023. Overall, the correlation between twitter trends and conflict intensity is positive but relatively weak.

Figure 4. Frequency of war-related hashtags and intensity of conflict.

Note: The chart shows the number of daily battle events in Ukraine as classified by ACLED on the left axis (in blue) and the share of countries where war-related topics were trending on the respective day on the right axis (in orange). The sources are ACLED’s Ukraine conflict monitor and data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

Attention also reacts to other major global events. Figure 5 compares the number of top-five trending hashtags related to the categories of interest in each country on two specific dates: February 24, 2022, the day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and October 7, 2023, the day of a Hamas terror attack on Israel. On the day of the Russian invasion, the majority of countries in our sample exhibited the highest value. In contrast, on the day of the Hamas attack, related hashtags were trending almost nowhere outside Ukraine and Russia, indicating that global attention and engagement with this new ongoing crisis significantly overshadowed the focus on the situation in Ukraine. This shift in attention demonstrates how breaking news can capture the public’s interest and divert focus from ongoing crises, affecting the level of engagement on social media and potentially influencing the global response and discourse surrounding these events.

Figure 5. Map of prevalence of war-related hashtags on two different dates.

Note: The maps show the share of the top five highest volume topics on twitter related to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The map on the left shows 24/02/2022 – the day of Russia’s invasion. The map on the right shows 07/10/2023 – the day of a Hamas terror attack on Israel. Countries in white are not among the 62 countries in the dataset. The source are data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

While some events impact attention globally, others affect the salience of the conflict for a specific country. Figure 6 shows that people pay more attention to the war when there is a tangible connection to their own country. The panel on the left shows that war-related topics were more likely to trend in a country around the days where the country announced an aid package for Ukraine (military, financial or humanitarian). It shows an increasing trend in the preceding days and a peak on the day of the announcement. The panel on the right shows that war-related topics were more likely to trend in a country around the days of a visit from President Zelenskyj. This effect is large in magnitude but only lasts for around three days.

Figure 6. Likelihood of hashtags trending in relation to country-specific event.

Note: The charts show variation in the share of countries where at least one war-related topic was among the top five highest volume topics on days relative to a specific event. In the left chart, day 0 represents the day on which a country’s government announces an aid package for Ukraine. In the right chart, day 0 represents the day on which President Zelenskyj arrived in a country for an official visit. The source for these charts are: (i) the Kiel Institute’s Ukraine Support Tracker (Trebesch et al., 2023), (ii) Wikipedia’s list of official visits by President Zelenskyj and (iii) data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

While the events above act as drivers of attention, it is also interesting to consider what causes war-related topics to drop out of the top five trending topics. We distinguish between two reasons why war-related hashtags could stop trending: (i) a loss of interest that results in a reduction in the absolute number of related tweets (ii) the rise of other topics that displace war-related tweets from the top five. Figure 7 focuses on days where war-related topics dropped out and compares the volume of tweets on the last day where they were in the top five, to the threshold they would have had to surpass in order to make the top five on the subsequent day. In cases where the threshold is lower than the previously observed volume of tweets (a ratio of less than 1), the topic would have kept trending had it sustained its volumes, and one can conclude there was an absolute loss of interest. In cases where the ratio is greater than one, it is possible that the topic sustained its previous volume of tweets but was crowded-out by the rise of a new trending topic. Figure 7plots the histogram of this ratio. 73 percent of the cases are in the first category (loss of attention) and 27 percent are in the possible crowding out category. This provides further evidence to suggest that attention to the war on social media is typically fleeting.

Figure 7. Loss of attention vs crowding out.

Note: The sample are country-days where war-related topics were among the top five highest-volume topics but then dropped out of the top five the next day. The chart provides a histogram of the ratio of the threshold for making the top five on the subsequent day to the highest volume of tweets of a war-related topic. Values below 1 (in blue) indicate that the volume was above the next day’s threshold and the topic declined in absolute terms. Values above 1 (in orange) indicate that the volume was below the next day’s threshold. The source are data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

We also examine the content of discussions on the first day after war-related hashtags drop out of the top five. The word cloud in Figure 8 suggests that on such days, people primarily discuss entertainment topics like music and football.

Figure 8. Word cloud of hashtags trending on days war-related categories drop out.

Note: The figure provides a word cloud of trending topics on country-days where no war-related topic was among the top five highest volume topics, but at least one war-related topic had been in the top five on the previous day. The source are data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

Content and Context of War-Related Discourse

In addition to providing insight into the level of engagement, hashtag analysis can also reveal the content and context of popular discourse surrounding the war. By examining words trending on the same days as those from our 11 categories, we can gain a better understanding of the topics people are discussing and how the conversation varies across different regions. Figure 9 illustrates this through word clouds, showing the language used in NATO countries on the left and in countries that abstained or voted against the United Nations General Assembly Resolution ES-11/1 on the right. This resolution, dated March 2, 2022, condemned the brutal invasion of Ukraine and demanded that Russia immediately withdraw its forces and comply with international law.

This exercise allows us to compare the dominant themes and narratives in these two groups of countries and observe any differences in public perception and discourse regarding the conflict. The prevalence of cryptocurrency and NFT (non-fungible tokens) references in the word cloud on the right is suggestive of how economic interests and alternative financial systems could be relevant for the positions of countries that abstained or voted against the resolution, and how this might affect their involvement or response to the conflict. On the left, words like “NATO”, ”Biden”,  and ”Trump” clearly stand out, suggesting that these topics are central to the discourse on the war in NATO countries. This could indicate a focus on geopolitical alliances, international cooperation, and the role of key political figures in shaping the response to the conflict. Interestingly, “Putin” is very prominent in the left word cloud while “Russia” and “Russian” are more prominent on the right. This could indicate that Putin is seen and discussed as the primary antagonist in NATO countries.

Figure 9. Word cloud of hashtags in NATO countries vs Russia-friendly countries.

Note: These word clouds represent topics that trend on days where at least one war-related topic is trending in the respective country. The cloud on the left shows NATO countries. The cloud on the right shows countries that either abstained or voted against United Nations General Assembly Resolution ES-11/1. The source are data scraped from archive.twitter-trending.com

Conclusion

This brief uses X/Twitter trends as a barometer of public interest in Russia’s war in Ukraine. We show how attention fluctuates over time in response to developments in the conflict, to other breaking news, and to local events that make the conflict salient for a domestic audience. We also provide descriptive evidence on the variation across geographical regions and among different groups of countries. Additionally, we analyse the instance where Ukraine-related topics stop trending and find suggestive evidence that this is typically due to a gradual loss of interest rather than crowding out by new distracting trends.

Public attention and engagement drive policy in democratic countries, and the sustained support of its democratic allies is vital for Ukraine during this critical time. Understanding the patterns and influences of public attention is crucial for developing effective strategies to sustain engagement and support. This can be achieved for example by regularly highlighting the ongoing significance and bearing of Russia’s war against Ukraine, even as other events dominate the headlines. Emphasizing the impact of the conflict on individuals and communities, as well as its broader implications for international relations and global security, can help sustain public interest and engagement.

References

  • ACLED. Ukraine Conflict Monitor. https://acleddata.com/ukraine-conflict-monitor/
  • Trebesch, C., Antezza, A., Bushnell, K., Bomprezzi, P., Dyussimbinov, Y., Frank, A., Frank, P., Franz, L., Kharitonov, I., Kumar, B., Rebinskaya, E., Schade, C., Schramm, S., and Weiser, L. (2023). The Ukraine Support Tracker: Which countries help Ukraine and how? Kiel Working Paper, 2218, 1-75.
  • Twitter Trending Archive. Scraped on ##/12/2023. https://archive.twitter-trending.com/

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

The Political Economy of Environmental Policy | Call for Papers

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The Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and the Forum for Research on Eastern Europe: Climate and Environment (FREECE) invites paper submissions to a one-day workshop session on the ‘Political Economy of Environmental Policy’ with a keynote lecture by Michaël Aklin (EPFL, Swiss Federal Institute) on 19th of April 2024 in Stockholm.

This event, hosted by FREECE together with SITE, will bring together leading academics and experts in the field to discuss and explore the complex relationship between politics, economics, and environmental policy.

The ‘Political Economy of Environmental Policy’ workshop aims to foster a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights among scholars, researchers, and practitioners. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking discussions, share their latest research findings, and explore innovative approaches to addressing the challenges of environmental policy in today’s rapidly changing world.

Keynote Speaker

Keynote address by Michaël Aklin, an Associate Professor from the EPFL, Swiss Federal Institute, and an expert in the political economy of environmental policy.

Workshop

Just like last year (The Economics of Sustainable Transport)the workshop will consist of two elements:

  1. a session with paper presentations, and
  2. keynote speeches from invited experts in the field.

The workshop will thus provide presentations of the latest research and guidance on the future of the field to economists interested in doing their own research on the topic.

Call for Papers

We would like to invite paper and extended abstract submissions, as well as expressions of interest in attending the workshop by 4 March 2024.

Important Dates and Submission Deadline

  • 4th of March 2024 – Submission deadline (full papers or extended abstracts)
  • 11th of March 2024 – Notification of acceptance
  • 19th of April 2024 – FREECE Workshop session on the ‘Political Economy of Environmental Policy’

Please send your submission to: julius.andersson@hhs.se.

The workshop is organised as part of the FREECE initiative – the Forum for Research on Eastern Europe: Climate and Environment supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

What Is the Evidence on the Swedish “Paternity Leave” Policy?

20240204 Swedish Paternity Leave image representing fathers parental leave policy

Since 1995, Sweden has earmarked an increasing number of parental leave days to each parent, creating a strong incentive for fathers to increase their (traditionally low) parental leave uptake. The literature on the causal impacts of these policies establishes several important findings. First, the incentive seems to work, as fathers tend to increase their uptake of paternity leave. However, who responds to the incentive, the timing of the leave and how mothers adjust to it is heterogenous, depending on the policy design and the underlying couple characteristics. Second, there is no strong support in the data for the argument, popular in public opinion and among policy-makers, that paternity leave should improve the balance of childcare duties within a couple and ultimately enhance women’s labor market position. However, in order to estimate causal effects, the studies reviewed in this policy brief focus on the first cohort of families affected by earmarked parental policies, whereas impacts on mothers’ labor market outcomes are more likely to manifest in the long run. Further, paternity leave policies in the broader sense have benefitted mothers’ health post childbirth and they may also have broken the social stigma on fathers taking time off to care for their children. Finally, recent evidence suggests that earmarking has improved gender attitudes in the next generation, making men less likely to hold stereotypical views about gender roles in society.

Parental Leave in Sweden

All parents in Sweden have been entitled to paid parental leave benefits since 1974, with no difference between birthing and non-birthing parents (for simplicity referred to as mothers and fathers henceforth). Despite this, fathers’ parental leave take-up has historically been very low (see Figure 1).

To change this pattern, the legislator has introduced a few reforms over the years. In 1995, 30 of the wage-replaced days (i.e. parental leave days compensated at almost the rate of the daily wage) were earmarked to each parent, creating the so called ”mum/dad month”. When a parent failed to take up these 30 days these would be “lost”, as earmarked days could not be transferred to the other parent. Through two subsequent reforms, effective from 2002 and 2016 respectively, the number of earmarked wage-replaced days increased, first to sixty days and then to ninety days.

Today, the total allowance is 480 benefit days, of which 390 are wage-replaced (paid at about 80 percent of the parent’s wage), and the remaining 90 are compensated at a low flat rate (approximately 15 euros per day). 90 of the wage-replaced days are earmarked to each parent. The parental leave days can be utilized until the day the child turns 12 or until the child finishes 5th grade, but 80 percent of these days must be used by the time the child turns 4.

As shown in Figure 1, father’s share of the total parental leave steadily grew over the years when the earmarking reforms occurred but has since 2018 stalled at a rate of 69/31 (i.e., mothers and fathers take 69 and 31 percent respectively of the total number of leave days claimed in Sweden during one year).

Figure 1. Men’s share of parental leave days in Sweden, 1974-2021, in percent.

Source: Author’s compilation based on data from Statistics Sweden.

One could speculate, based on these trends, that earmarking might have successfully increased father’s take-up of parental leave. However, without rigorous statistical analysis, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the role of the earmarking polices and secular trends in preferences over parental leave. Thankfully, a few papers have studied the Swedish parental leave reforms, using state-of-the art techniques to understand their respective causal impacts. What is the research-based evidence on the Swedish parental leave earmarking reforms? Did they successfully incentivize fathers to increase their take-up? Did they succeed in their broader goal of balancing child responsibilities within couples, ultimately helping women improve their position in the labor-market? How were children affected by them? What lessons from the Swedish experience can be useful for fine-tuning of the Swedish policy or for similar designs in other countries?

This policy brief delves into the academic literature on the impacts of the Swedish earmarking reforms. The review is by no means representative of the large amount of academic work produced on the Swedish parental leave reforms. Rather, it is a small selection of studies where results can be more easily interpreted as causal impacts, as they are based on comparing families with children born just before versus just after the relevant date for the policy implementation, and account for so called month-of-birth effects (see e.g. Larsen et al., 2017) when needed. Causal estimates can be more directly used to inform policy-making, which is what motivates the focus of this review.

Earmarking and Take-up of Paternity Leave

As explained above, the Swedish earmarking system creates strong incentives for fathers to increase their take-up of leave days, as these would otherwise be “lost”, leaving couples with the need to resort to potentially more costly arrangements for childcare.

It is thus not surprising that the 1995 reform increased fathers’ take-up of wage-replaced leave by an average of 15 days, 50 percent of the pre-reform take-up (Ekberg et al., 2013). This change seems to mostly stem from the 54 percent of fathers who were taking 0 days of leave before the reform and were induced to take between 20 and 40 days after, so that the percentage of fathers not taking any leave declined to 18 precent.

In a recent working paper, Avdic et al. (2023) complement this evidence, considering all leave days together. They show that the reform induced fathers to increase their take-up of total parental leave by 21 days, whereby mothers decreased it by the same amount. Therefore, on average, the total amount of leave taken by Swedish parents remained unchanged, but the mother’s share decreased by about 5.4 percentage points. The paper also compares changes in parents’ take-up month-by-month, finding that some mothers took some unpaid leave within the child’s first year to compensate for the loss of wage-replaced days. It is not clear why these mothers would not resort to the low flat rate leave, as other mothers seem to have done (see Ekberg at al., 2013). In general, the data points to fathers having mostly, although not exclusively, substituted for mothers’ time with the child during the child’s second year of life.

Avdic and Karimi (2018) extend the policy-evaluation to the 2002 reform, which earmarked one additional month to each parent, but also made one more month of wage-replaced leave available. They find that this reform also caused an increase in take-up of paternity leave, but for a different group of fathers. While in 1995 fathers that otherwise would have taken no leave were induced to take approximately one month, the 2002 shift occurred mostly among fathers who, instead of taking between 30 and 40 days of leave, started taking more than 50 days.

These findings are consistent with those in Alden et al. (2023), who study the characteristics of fathers who do not take any leave. They find that while the 1995 reform changed the composition of this group of fathers, the same thing did not happen with the 2002 and 2016 reforms. Over-time, one group of men consistently stands out for not taking any parental leave regardless of the incentives created by the legislator, namely fathers with worse labor-market positions, and whose earnings are lower than that of the mothers.

Paternity Leave and Gender Gaps

The main motivation for policies that seek to increase the take-up of parental leave among fathers is that this increase can help women, especially high-skilled ones, improve their labor-market position (Ekberg et al., 2013). The economics literature has long established a systematic loss in earnings and employment for women following the birth of their first child (the so-called child penalty; see e.g. Kleven et al., 2019). There are two main mechanisms through which earmarking policies could improve women’s labor market outcomes. First, if firms discriminate against women because of the (perceived) cost of maternity leave, the discrimination should decline once employers expect also men to take parental leave. Ginja et al. (2020) show evidence (although not causal) consistent with long maternity leaves reducing child-bearing aged women’s “attractiveness” among Swedish employers.  Second, by creating a stronger bond between fathers and children, and by reducing mothers’ specialization in childcare, paternity leave should increase the time fathers allocate to childcare as the child grows up, thus re-balancing the division of non-market (and possibly market) work within the couple.

As pointed out in Cools et al. (2015), the first type of effect, more likely to be relevant in the long run, is hard to estimate with data from only one country, as virtually all employers in the country should be somewhat affected by the change in perceptions.

Instead, Ekberg et al. (2013) study the effect on intra-household division of childcare responsibilities, by estimating the impact of the 1995 reform on the amount of time that fathers and mothers claim off work when their child is sick. They find no evidence that the 1995 reform increased the share of time off taken by fathers to care for sick children. Consistently, the study also fails to find evidence of large and robust changes in mothers’ earnings for thirteen years post childbirth. Similarly, Avdic et al. (2023) show that mothers affected by the 1995 reform did not increase, on average, their labor supply, except during the first year of the child’s life.

While these analyses are extremely valuable for our understanding of the reforms’ effects on the first cohort of families affected, they fall short of capturing long-term dynamics. For instance, it is important to acknowledge that the decision on who takes time off when the child is sick depends on many factors, including the availability of flexible arrangements at work. Women are known for selecting into occupations and jobs that allow a more flexible schedule (Goldin, 2014). This pattern might change if the increase in take-up of paternity leave leads to updated expectations among women on partners’ willingness to share daycare responsibility. This is most likely a long-term development, which the design used in the above outlined studies does not capture.

Another effect of the Swedish parental leave system, not directly linked to earmarking but nevertheless indicative of the importance of fathers’ time off work during the child’s first year of life, is that on mothers’ health. Persson and Rossin-Slater (2019) show that a Swedish 2012 reform that in practice allowed fathers to take 30 days of parental leave in concomitance with the mother during the child’s first year of life reduced the likelihood of mothers experiencing health issues due to post-partum complications.

An important aspect that the literature has so far not emphasized is also that earmarking reforms might affect another gender gap, namely the “freedom” to take the leave. Given the traditional division of roles across genders, there might be a stigma at a societal level against men taking parental leave. By creating strong economic incentives for taking paternity leave, the earmarking policies may downplay the stigma in the short-term and break it in the long-term. There is some suggestive, although not definitive, evidence that norms around paternity leave might have changed. Avdic and Karimi (2018) show that between 1995 and 2002 the share of fathers who were taking more than one month of leave had already started increasing before the second month was earmarked. More research would be needed, however, to assess the role of policies in changing societal perceptions around paternity leave.

Paternity Leave and Children’s Outcomes

An obvious question to ask is how children are affected by earmarking of parental leave days. Avdic et al. (2023) study this question in the context of the 1995 reform. By looking separately at different groups of children by sex and parents’ education, they find that the 1995 reform caused a decline in GPA for sons of non-college-educated fathers and mothers. The most likely channel for this relationship, according to the authors, is boys’ diminished access to fathers’ time, due to the 1995 reform increasing the likelihood of couple dissolution within the child’s first three years of life (for households with low-earning mothers). At that time children tended to live predominantly with the mother in case of parental separation. However, a potential additional channel could be the worsened economic situation caused by the paternity leave. In households with low-earning mothers, mothers’ and family earnings declined post-reform due to mothers compensating for “lost” leave days by taking unpaid leave. Very conflictual separations could also be behind the effect on children’s GPA.

These findings highlight the importance of considering potential unintended consequences of the parental leave policies, and the diverse effects they might have on different demographic groups. Such considerations could improve the design of future policies. For instance, Avdic and Karimi (2018) find that the 2002 reform, which earmarked one more month and added one month of wage-replaced parental leave, did not cause couple dissolution. Thus, the authors conclude that not imposing strong constraints on households, while creating incentives for fathers to take paternity leave, is highly desirable.

Finally, in a very recent working paper, Fontenay and Gonzalez (2024) consider the effect of earmarking policies on children’s gender attitudes as adults, leveraging data from online surveys of 3,000 respondents across six European countries, including Sweden. They study changes in attitudes as measured by an Implict Association Test, which is meant to capture subconscious associations between women and family and men and career.  In five of the countries studied they find that male respondents born soon after an earmarking reform have less stereotypical gender attitudes than those born before. No differences are detected for women. The effect in Sweden is one of the largest: in a sample of 237 male respondents, the father being eligible for the “dad-month” makes the child hold more egalitarian gender-attitudes as an adult by 0.3 standard deviations. The authors suggest that a role model effect might be at play, whereby boys who observe their fathers being more involved in childcare are nurtured to hold more egalitarian beliefs about gender roles.

Conclusion

Since 1995, Sweden has earmarked an increasing number of parental leave days to each parent, creating strong incentives for fathers to increase their previously very low parental leave uptake. This policy brief has reviewed the literature that studies the causal impacts of these earmarking reforms, highlighting a number of important conclusions as well as gaps in the knowledge on the effects of these policies.

First, the incentives created by the earmarking policies seem to work, as fathers tend to increase their uptake of paternity leave, while mothers tend to increase their labor supply during their child’s first year of life. However, such effects are heterogeneous, depending on the policy design and the underlying couple characteristics. Designs that impose strong constraints on household choices seem to have adverse effects on low-income or low-education households, reducing mothers’ earnings, triggering couple dissolution, and negatively affecting children’s GPA. Future increases in earmarking or similar policies in other countries should consider these design details carefully.

Second, there is no strong support in the data for the argument, popular in the public opinion and among policy makers, that paternity leave improves the balance of childcare duties within a couple and that it ultimately enhances women’s labor market position. However, to estimate causal effects, the studies analyzed in this policy brief focus on the first cohort of families affected by the earmarked reforms, whereas impacts on mothers’ labor market outcomes are more likely to be seen in the long run. After all, Sweden is one of the countries with the lowest documented child penalty in employment and earnings (see the child penalty atlas), and it is unlikely that policy played no role in narrowing gender gaps among parents. Consistently, recent evidence suggests that earmarking has improved gender attitudes in the next generation, making men less likely to hold stereotypical views about gender roles in society.

Further, it is important to mention that paternity leave policies in general have benefitted mothers’ post-childbirth health and that they may have broken a societal stigma around fathers taking time off to care for their children.

References

  • Aldén, L., Boschini, A. and Tallås Ahlzen, M. (2023). Fathers but not Caregivers. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4405212
  • Avdic, D. and Karimi, A., (2018). Modern family? Paternity leave and marital stability. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 10(4), pp. 283-307.
  • Avdic, D., Karimi, A., Sundberg, E. and Sjögren, A. (2023). Paternity leave and child outcomes. IFAU, Working Paper 25.
  • Ekberg, J., Eriksson, R., and Friebel, G. (2013). Parental leave—A policy evaluation of the Swedish “Daddy-Month” reform. Journal of Public Economics, 97, pp. 131-143.
  • Ginja, R., Karimi, A. and Pengpeng Xiao. (2023). Employer responses to family leave programs. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 15(1), pp. 107-135.
  • Goldin, C., (2014). A grand gender convergence: Its last chapter. American Economic Review, 104(4), pp. 1091-1119.
  • Gonzalez, L. and Fontenay, S. (2024). Can Public Policies Break the Gender Mold? Evidence from Paternity Leave Reforms in Six Countries. BSE, Working Paper 1422.
  • Kleven, H., Landais, C., Posch, J., Steinhauer, A. and Zweimüller, J. (2019). Child penalties across countries: Evidence and explanation”. AEA Papers and Proceedings, 109, pp. 122-126.
  • Larsen, E. R. and Solli, I. F. (2017). Born to run behind? Persisting birth month effects on earnings. Labour Economics, 46, pp. 200-210.
  • Persson, P., and Rossin-Slater, M. (2019). When dad can stay home: fathers’ workplace flexibility and maternal health. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 25902.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Ukrainian Refugees: Who Returns and Why?

Image depicting Ukrainian refugees, including a child holding a teddy bear, eagerly awaiting their return to Ukraine

Of the 17 million Ukrainians who have fled the country since the full-scale Russian invasion in spring 2022, over 60 percent have returned to the country. Based on survey data of Ukrainians who were previously abroad but have returned and those who have remained abroad, we look at the factors that impact their respective decisions to return or to stay. We find that having family in Ukraine is an important factor, but so is missing one’s home, a wish for children to study in Ukraine and a desire to participate in the reconstruction of Ukraine. People who emigrated with their spouse, and those who had planned to emigrate prior to the full-scale war, are more likely to stay abroad. We also find that those staying in a host country are highly involved in Ukrainian affairs and argue that the Ukrainian government should consider them a resource rather than lost human capital.

One of the major consequences of the Russian war on Ukraine has been the mass exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the war. As of February 2022, the Ukrainian statistical agency has ceased publishing population data for both technical and security reasons, so the exact number of Ukrainians that have left the country is unknown. However, on the basis of  mirror statistics from other countries, data from international organizations or surveys, it can be estimated that about 17 million people have fled the country since February 2022. Out of those, over 60 percent have returned to Ukraine, while 6 million Ukrainians have remained abroad.

As people are key in the future reconstruction and development of Ukraine, it is of great importance to understand what factors drive people to return (or not to return) to Ukraine. A recent paper (Sologoub, 2024) aims at addressing this question using a representative survey implemented by the Factum Group in July-August 2023. The survey includes 1400 people who, since early 2022, have fled Ukraine.  Half of the respondents had returned to Ukraine at the time of the survey while the other half remained abroad. The first group is from here on referred to as returnees and the latter as refugees.

To look at the factors that determine individual’s decisions to return or stay abroad, the paper specifically considers the factors that impact three probabilities:

  • the probability that a person stays abroad;
  • the probability that a person who stays abroad plans to return (64 percent of the refugees);
  • and the probability that a person who returned plans to stay in Ukraine (56 percent of the returnees).

This policy brief briefly describes the survey data, summarizes the key findings and concludes with policy implications and recommendations.

Main Characteristics of the Survey Respondents

The survey data shows that out of the entire sample of people who have returned to Ukraine and who have remained abroad, over 80 percent are women, and out of these 44 percent emigrated from Ukraine with children. About a quarter of our respondents stay or have stayed in Poland or Germany, 7 percent in the Czech Republic, while other countries have accommodated up to 4 percent of the Ukrainian migrants in our sample. The main reason for emigration is safety – almost half of the respondents reported it being the main reason for leaving Ukraine (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Stated reasons for migration choices.

Source: Factum Group survey, own calculations. Note: Blue bars are for returnees, orange bars are for refugees (i.e. individuals who have stayed in host country). A dark color denotes the main reason, and a light color denotes other reasons.

Half of the respondents who had a job in Ukraine prior to the war lost their jobs at onset of the full-scale invasion, 18 percent quit their jobs and 30 percent continued to work remotely. 53 percent of the refugees had a job at the time of the survey, and 9 percent of those who remained abroad worked online for a Ukrainian organization. Of those who worked abroad at the time of the survey, 61 percent remained on the same qualification level, while 37 percent changed their qualification level – the majority of those changed to a lower qualification level.

39 percent of all respondents had school-aged children. A quarter of them reported that their children studied only online in Ukrainian schools in 2022/23. Over 60 percent stated that their children studied in a host country, but most of these children took additional classes within the Ukrainian school program – in an online or offline environment, with tutors or on their own.

When asked to compare different aspects of their life abroad and in Ukraine, approximately equal shares of the respondents reported an improvement or a worsening of these aspects. Worsening aspects was mainly reported to concern relations with friends, psychological state, and healthcare. The respondents also stated reasons for their return to Ukraine (or willingness to return), which allowed for estimation of the significance of these reasons. Generally, we found that pull factors (factors attracting people to return to Ukraine) are much more powerful than push factors (factors that force people out of host countries).

Main Results from the Probability Models

Demographic factors (age, education, family status, or income group) are non-significant across all models with the exception of marital status. People who are single are more likely to return to Ukraine, while those who migrated together with their spouse and those who do not have children are more likely to stay abroad.

Significantly positive for the probability that a person had returned at the time of the survey were pull factors such as missing family or home, the wish for children to study in Ukraine, better job opportunities in Ukraine, having property in Ukraine, and returning friends. Some significant push factors were loneliness or integration hardship, as well as feeling humiliated for living on subsidies/state support.

Among respondents who lived abroad at the time of the survey, 64 percent planned to return to Ukraine someday, 13 percent did not plan to return to Ukraine and the rest were undecided. One should however keep in mind that peoples’ intentions can change rather quickly – in the qualitative part of the survey, some respondents explained that their decision to return was spontaneous.

The probability that a person plans to return was lower for people who had planned to emigrate prior to 2022, for people who hadn’t been to Ukraine since they fled, and for people with refugee status (in some countries, people may lose refugee protection status if they exit the host country and travel to Ukraine).

Safety improvements and better job prospects increase the probability that a refugee plans to return, as well as a wish for children to study in Ukraine and a desire to participate in Ukraine’s reconstruction. Over 70 percent of the respondents believe that their experiences from abroad will be useful for the reconstruction and over 50 percent state that the new skills they’ve gained abroad can be applied during the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Significant push factors are lacking integration into the local community and an inferior social life abroad compared to life in Ukraine. Higher levels of general well-being and life satisfaction abroad expectedly reduce the probability that a person plans to return.

Lastly, those who had returned to Ukraine at the time of the survey were asked whether or not they planned to stay in Ukraine. 56 percent said yes, 7 percent plan to emigrate again, while the rest will consider the circumstances. The main factors that keep a person in Ukraine are family, the wish for one’s children to study in Ukraine and a willingness to participate in the reconstruction of the country. Improved safety is also a significant factor – which might explain why people who are originally from the Western part of Ukraine are more likely to stay (the regional factor is significant only in this third probability model). Finally, people who planned to emigrate prior to 2022, or those whose life in Ukraine is considerably inferior to that abroad, are less likely to stay.

Ukrainians’ Liaison with Their Country

60 percent of the refugees read Ukrainian news daily, and over 90 percent read them at least several times a week. The majority of the readers spread these news in their local communities and/or in their social networks. Generally, Ukrainian refugees are quite active, over 40 percent attend rallies in support of Ukraine, almost 40 percent participate in volunteer projects, over 70 percent donate to Ukrainian organizations (and the same share help their relatives in Ukraine) and 15 percent work at a non-governmental organization.

Not surprisingly, the opinion among Ukrainian refugees on reforms in Ukraine is very similar to the opinion among returnees: anti-corruption and judicial reform have the highest priority. In line with this, the fear of corruption derailing the reconstruction of Ukraine is greater than the fear that Russia will continue with their missile attacks on Ukraine. Therefore, the determination of the Ukrainian government to fight corruption will likely not only improve life for people in Ukraine but also increase the probability that refugees return to Ukraine.

Conclusion

Most of the Ukrainians who initially fled the war have already returned to Ukraine, with the majority planning on staying in the country. For those who are still abroad, the majority wish to return when safety improves. When analysing the factors behind such wishes, it is evident that among the pull factors lie not only personal drivers, such as missing one’s home or family, but also civic factors such as a willingness to participate in the reconstruction of Ukraine or a wish for one’s children to study in Ukraine, thus contributing to preserving their identity. Moreover, Ukrainians who are living abroad are highly involved in Ukrainian affairs.

Therefore, we suggest that the Ukrainian government consider refugees as a valuable resource rather than as a loss. For example, government representatives could ask refugees to donate to Ukraine, and engage in individual or collective actions (e.g. inform their local friends about the situation in Ukraine, join rallies or flashmobs in support of Ukraine etc.). Such “peoples diplomacy” is important to ensure continued support for Ukraine.

We also recommend that the governments of host countries make it easier for refugees to stay connected with Ukraine. Specifically, refugees should be allowed to travel to Ukraine without losing their protection status.

Lastly, the strongest precondition for refugees’ return to Ukraine is supplying the country with weapons and other crucial support to win the war. A Ukrainian victory will not only bring about reconstruction and development of Ukraine but also promote and enforce global democracy.

References

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Times of Crisis: Insights Shared at the 2023 FROGEE Conference

20240122 Gender Equality Image 01

On October 19-20, 2023, the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University Policy Institute (ISET Policy Institute), in partnership with the Forum for Research on Gender Economics (FROGEE), organized the conference “Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Times of Crisis”. The conference addressed critical issues surrounding gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. By bringing together academics and practitioners from various sectors it served as a dynamic platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration on actionable solutions and commitments to address multifaceted challenges faced by women globally. This policy brief outlines the keynote, academic and other presentations and discussions featured at the conference.

Introduction

Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are vital issues that have gained increasing global attention in recent years. Their significance is even more pronounced in times of crisis, such as during economic downturns or global health emergencies. Such challenging circumstances often exacerbate existing gender disparities and vulnerabilities, making it crucial to address the specific challenges women face in accessing economic opportunities and resources. Discussions on these matters delve into the complex intersection of gender equality and economic empowerment and how empowering women economically can contribute to more resilient and equitable societies.

The October 19-20 conference was aimed at examining and addressing the various aspects of gender equality and female empowerment. The conference begun with opening introductions by Tamar Sulukhia, Eva Atterlöv and Kaori Ishikawa (see the participant list at the end for all associations). Following the opening remarks were two distinctive keynote presentations, a policy panel discussion, and academic presentations. This policy brief summarizes the key takeaways from the conference.

Keynote Addresses

The conference’s first keynote speaker, Elizabeth Brainerd, deliberated on the impact of World War II on marriage and fertility among Russian women. Brainerd show that the war affected these women’s lives for decades, leading to lower rates of marriage and fertility and higher out-of-wedlock births and divorce rates in urban areas than would have been the case in absence of the war. These effects were likely exacerbated by a war and post-war institutional environment that encouraged nonmarital births (in part by expanding the child benefit program) and increased the cost of binding commitments through marriage, particularly for men (absolving fathers of any financial or legal responsibility for children fathered outside marriage). As shown by Brainerd the shock to sex ratios in the Soviet Union due to World War II was among the largest experienced by any country in the twentieth century. In this sense, the effect on Russian women and men was unique and arguably not directly relevant to other countries or time periods. Yet, highly unbalanced sex ratios characterize many populations – whether due to war, immigration and emigration, or preferences for sons etc., – and the analysis can therefore shed light on the effects of sex ratio imbalance also in other contexts. Brainerd’s work supports the conclusion that sex ratios matter for marital and fertility outcomes, both on the marriage market itself and within marriage. The insights from the Soviet Union also highlights that the institutional context matters for determining both the size and direction of the sex ratio’s impact on marriage markets and family formations.

In the conferences second keynote presentation, Maria Floro discussed the findings from a time-allocation survey in Georgia. Evident from the results, women’s work differs from men’s in the sense that women more often perform unpaid household tasks, and since they are primarily responsible for household and caregiving duties, including childcare and elderly care. Such combined responsibilities, coupled with working in typically low-paid jobs can negatively affect women’s physical and mental wellbeing. As the data shows, 66 percent of Georgia’s population engage in unpaid domestic work, with women (88.3 percent) and men (39.6 percent) participating at starkly different rates. Rural women’s participation is the highest, at 90,3 percent. On average, the Georgian population spends 2.1 hours per day on unpaid domestic services for household and family members – with a large gender disparity. In general, the time spent per day by men is 0.7 hours while, in contrast, the time spent by women on these activities is 5 times higher in rural areas (3.6 hours) and 4.7 times higher in urban areas (3.2 hours). Women working full time spend 2.7 hours per day on unpaid domestic services, five times higher than the 0.5 hours spent by men working full time. For all areas of residence, the time spent on unpaid domestic services by women increases with age up until 64 years of age when the numbers drop. Further, women’s time spent on unpaid caregiving work (0.9 hours per day) is 4.5 times higher than the time spent by men. Even for full time working women, the daily time spent on unpaid caregiving work (0.6 hours) is three times higher than that of their male counterparts (0.2 hours). Women who have completed a higher level of education spend higher time on unpaid caregiving services (0.9-1.1 hours per day) than those with a lower level of education (0.4-0.7 hours per day). The difference in women’s and men’s time spent on unpaid caregiving work is greatest for Georgians aged 25-44. Such unequal sharing of household and caregiving responsibilities limits women’s job prospects and is a major reason behind their low participation rate in the labor force, as well as the gender pay gap.

The South Caucasus Gender Equality Index

Following the keynote presentations, Davit Keshelava, presented the ISET Policy Institute’s most recent work on the South Caucasus Gender Equality Index (SCGEI). The index, developed by ISET Policy Institute in close collaboration with Swiss Cooperation Office in Georgia and updated on an annual basis, draws inspiration from the European Institute for Gender Equality’s Gender Equality Index. It comprises of six domains: work, money, knowledge, time, power, and health, alongside eleven subdomains and nineteen indicators.

The index is calculated for three South Caucasus countries, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, and nine benchmark countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia. The 2023 edition, mainly based on data from 2021-2022, reveals that within the South Caucasus Armenia is ahead concerning gender equality in the work domain, while Georgia trails behind its regional counterparts. Gender equality in the work domain is lower in the South Caucasus (64.0) than in the baseline countries (67.3).

Georgia stands out as the South Caucasus leader in gender equality within the money domain but significantly trails the baseline countries (South Caucasus – 51.1 vs. baseline countries – 80.5). This discrepancy is the most prominent across all six domains. Azerbaijan leads in the knowledge domain (with Armenia displaying the greatest inequality), yet the South Caucasus slightly outpaces baseline countries in this domain (South Caucasus – 59 and baseline countries – 58.8). This is however the sole equality domain where the South Caucasus surpasses the benchmark countries.

Georgia and Armenia exhibit higher equality in the power domain than Azerbaijan while, in the time domain, Georgia takes the lead in the South Caucasus. In the health domain, Armenia leads in equality, although the difference in index values is marginal.

In the overall index, Georgia emerges as the regional leader in gender equality (60.4), followed by Armenia (57.5) and Azerbaijan (53.0). However, South Caucasus countries as a whole have a lower index (55.4) than the baseline countries (64.1).

Panel Discussion: Topics and Takeaways

The SCGEI presentation was followed by a policy panel discussion, moderated by Tamar Sulukhia and including the panelists Nino Okribelashvili, Nino Chelidze, Nani Bendeliani and Nino Lortkipanidze. The panelists discussed gender inequalities in different areas such as within academia and the tech industry as well as the role of women during crises and the progress made in Georgia towards ensuring gender equality.

Nino Okribelashvili deliberated on the role of women in academia emphasizing that gender inequalities in higher education attainment become obvious when looking at the representation of women across different fields of science. The share of women in subjects such as social work, education and nursing is more than 80 percent, while it is 20 percent in subjects such as computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) oriented institutions are still generally perceived as male dominated. The second glaring gap concerns the representativeness of women in higher rank and leadership positions in academia, where women remain underrepresented in academic and professorial positions across all subjects.

While Nino Okribelashvili discussed the role of women in academia in general, Nino Lortkipanidze focused specifically on the tech industry. She discussed the industry’s potential to create job opportunities for women through various strategies and initiatives such as STEM education and training, diverse hiring practices, leadership development and flexible work policies – including remote work possibilities. Lortkipanidze emphasized that with the right support and opportunities, the rapidly growing tech industry could allow working mothers to thrive in their careers while also enjoying the advantages of a family-friendly work environment.

Shifting the focus to women in times of crisis, Nino Chelidze emphasized the aggravated impact of war on women using the example of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Chelidze highlighted the need for urgent, coordinated action from the donor community to address the challenges of internally displaced persons, most of whom are women and children.

The panel discussion wrapped up with Nani Bendeliani highlighting Georgia’s advancements in gender equality and female empowerment over the past three decades. Bendeliani mentioned different institutional mechanisms adopted in the country for the advancement of women alongside legislative initiatives implemented in different areas concerning for instance maternity and paternity leave, changes to the labor code and the election code. According to Bendeliani, the progress towards gender equality is visible but slow, with available data and multiple assessments showing there is still much to be done.

Academic Presentations

The remainder of the conference was comprised of several academic sessions all contributing to the overall theme of multifaceted gender-related issues. The topics, as detailed below, were: gender disparities in the labor market, violence against women, gender dynamics during the Covid-19 pandemic, the gender divide in education, women in academia and female empowerment and access to services.

Gender Disparities on the Labor Market

The presenters focused on gender disparities on the labor market, exploring aspects such as the implications of labor protection regulations on both men and women, biases and discrimination in employment and wage negotiation, and the impact of female labor force participation on the advancement of women’s rights.

In his presentation, Michal Myck outlined the consequences of labor protection policies in Poland for employees within four years of retirement (regulation that protects them against layoffs, a lowering of their wages or adjustment of their responsibilities). Preliminary results indicate no economically or statistically significant adverse impacts on the employment of men and women approaching labor protection eligibility. These findings suggest that either the anticipated negative effects are absent, or that any concerns employers may have harbored regarding prospective employment protection were counteracted by robust labor demand during the reform period. The general conclusion is that extending protection to specific groups of workers, both men and women, does not necessarily lead to the adverse outcomes often highlighted in standard economic theory.

While Michal Myck focused on labor protection regulations, Francisco Lagos addressed the topic of weight-related employment discrimination and its impact on hiring outcomes. In an experiment, job applications accompanied either by a facial photo of a normal-weight person or by a photo of the same person manipulated to look overweight were sent out to real job opening across 12 occupations in Spain. The results reveal a significant disparity in callback rates for weight-manipulated male applicants, who received fewer callbacks compared to their normal-weight counterparts, with a more pronounced effect in female-dominated occupations. Conversely, weight-manipulated female applicants experienced a slight increase in callbacks, particularly in female-dominated fields. For men, the weight manipulation effect is attributed to the overweight making them appear less attractive, which translates into an attractiveness wage premium. On the contrary the findings for women suggest evidence of an attractiveness penalty, which is also combined with a weight penalty.

The topics of discrimination and biases were also central to Ramon Cobo Reyes Cano’s presentation, which outlined the results of a field experiment on anticipated discrimination and wage negotiation. The findings show that female applicants ask for a lower salary than male applicants in the baseline treatment group – when the full name of the applicant is visible. In the main treatment group, when the gender of the applicant was no longer visible to the employer, the wage requested by female applicants increased by 86 percent, whereas male applicants’ wage requests were 18 percent lower. Evidently, the gender gap in requested wages completely disappears (and even slightly reverses) when the applicants know that their sex is not visible for the potential employer.

The presentations on gender inequalities in the labor market were concluded by Nisar Ahmad, who empirically investigate the impact of women’s labor force participation on women’s rights.  In general, female labor force participation has a positive effect on women’s rights in countries with at least some legal economic rights for women. In countries where women’s rights are extremely limited or non-existent, female labor force participation has a negative or negligible impact on women’s rights.

Violence Against Women

In the academic session devoted to violence against women, the presenters elaborated on the primary factors influencing such violence in various countries at different time periods, including during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Monika Oczkowska explores how social norms, values, and stereotypes determine beliefs about abuse, including recognition of abuse, what is considered as abuse, whether abuse is ever justified, and societal consent towards gender-based discrimination. In countries where gender inequality is rampant, reported rates of abuse in standard surveys are sensitive to the socio-economic status and beliefs about gender norms of the participants, highlighting a high scale of variation in the perception of gender-based discrimination in Central and Eastern Europe.

These findings are in line with the results presented by Salome Gelashvili, who consider potential determinants of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Caucasus. According to the research, key factors contributing to GBV in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia include alcohol abuse, social stigma, being a member of a marginalized groups, a pervasive patriarchal culture, adherence to traditional gender roles, a high level of bureaucracy when reporting GBV to the police, generally weak legal support, limited awareness about various forms of GBV, and economic factors such as financial dependence on an abusive partner.

Similar outcomes, but with more emphasis put on norms and the patriarchal system, were found by Reina Shehi, who assesses gender-based violence in Albania. The results show that the patriarchal system and gender-based norms are the two main factors contributing to gender-based violence. However, there is a growing awareness of the importance of patriarchal institutions and gender norms when addressing GBV in Albania.

Violence against women increase in times of crisis, as shown by Velan Nirmala, who studies women’s empowerment and intimate partner violence (IPV) in India. The findings reveal that, regardless of socio-economic factors, the main types of IPV during the Covid-19 lockdown were physical and emotional violence. The results also highlight that a large majority of victims, regardless of education, wealth, region, household structure, religion, and caste, do not disclose the abuse due to societal taboos.

Gender Dynamics During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The unequal effect from the Covid-19 pandemic was further examined in an academic session in which the presenters keyed in on repercussions of the pandemic on women in terms of employment outcomes, decisions related to time allocation, and the division of unpaid household labor.

Nabamita Dutta presented work on gender inequality in employment during Covid-19 related lockdowns in India. The results show that during the pandemic, women were, in general, 8 percent less likely to be employed than men. While return migrants generally suffered less in terms of finding alternative jobs, being a female return migrant, increased the probability of joblessness to about 17 percent. For female return migrants belonging to marginalized castes, the probability of joblessness was about 10 percent, an interesting result considering that women belonging to marginalized castes (but not being return migrants) experience a higher likelihood of being unemployed then women that are not part of marginalized castes.

Anne Devlin further elaborated on this topic, assessing the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people living in disadvantaged areas in Ireland. The results indicate that Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) rates were higher in more deprived areas during lockdown periods and that woman, on average, receive PUP for a slightly longer duration than men. Further, female unemployment has a negative and statistically significant relationship with the length of PUP claims. The findings show that average PUP durations tend to be shorter in areas with a higher share of individuals with lower education levels, and in areas with historically higher levels of female unemployment.

Jacklyn Makaaru Arinaitwe presented work on how gender, culture, norms, and practices contributed to the unequal distribution of unpaid care work during Covid-19 in Uganda. The findings reveal that there are policy gaps in addressing the issue, as current policies don’t acknowledge the value of unpaid care work at a personal and national level. This lack of recognition and failure to come up with new ways to reduce or share women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid care work creates obstacles to girls’ education and hinder women’s economic empowerment in Uganda.

Also, on the topic of the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on women, Alessandro Toppeta presented work on the impacts of the pandemic on the role of parental beliefs in England. The results show that parents believe that the time they spend with their children is more valuable and less risky than the time children spend in formal childcare or with friends and that parents’ beliefs can predict the choices they make in investing time with their children. Further, the findings align with previous indications of the increased burden on women’s time experienced during the pandemic being a consequence of limited availability of alternative childcare options.

The Gender Divide in Education

Within the topic of gender in education, the presenters delved into the connection between education and gender roles and the importance of parental education for children’s education.

Sumit S. Deole presented work on the causal impact of education on gender role attitudes based on evidence from European datasets. The results suggest that an additional year of education prompts egalitarian gender role attitudes. Furthermore, the impact of increases in education is particularly prominent among women and, to some extent, in urban areas.

Fethiye Burcu Türkmen-Ceylan focus specifically on the importance of maternal education for children’s education in Turkey. Preliminary results indicate that maternal education has a distinctive positive impact on households’ budget allocation for children’s education among Turkish households.

Saumya Kumar also presented work on the importance of maternal education, considering the impacts of paternal education as well. The presented research finds that both maternal and paternal education reduce the gender gap in educational enrollment. However, having an educated mother is more important when it comes to increasing girls’ enrollment as compared to boys’ enrollment. The research also indicates that as mothers’ education levels rise, there is a greater increase in spendings on education for both boys and girls.

Further on the gender divide within education, Lubna Naz deliberated on how drought affects school attendance in rural Pakistan. The income decline caused by drought leads to a four-month decrease in schooling for all children, and a six-month decrease for boys. Asset ownership also has a negative impact on school attendance, suggesting a possible reverse causality or Simpson’s paradox. The combined effect of asset ownership and drought, however, has a positive impact on school attendance, Naz concluded.

Women in Academia

Gender inequalities are apparent also in the academic sphere. Liis Roosaar’s research looks into the impact of having children on women’s careers within academia. Roosaar find that becoming a mother doesn’t impact earnings per hour, but that mother’s do work fewer hours. More than four years after having a child, women in academia have lost the equivalent of two years of full-time work. Interestingly, men don’t face the same reduction in work hours after becoming fathers. The study also reveals that the career setback for women in academia after having a child is shorter compared to the general population. However, female academics experience a decline in citations as a consequence of the reduced working hours.

Barbara Będowska-Sójka’s research on women in academia focus on female representation on editorial boards of finance journals.  According to Będowska-Sójka women account for 20 percent of all editors on average, with considerable variance between countries. When it comes to editor’s affiliations they are strongly concentrated in the United States, and to a lesser extent in the United Kingdom. Additionally, a small number of extremely well-connected editors sit on many boards. The gender ratio is consistent in substructures for editors that are better connected (have so-called a high degree of centrality in terms of network analysis) or editors who serve on a large number of boards, yet men outnumber women.

Female Empowerment and Access to Services

Although their research focuses on distinct topics, Fazle Rabbi and Ulrich Wohak both presented research on the overarching theme of women’s empowerment and enhanced access to goods and services.

In his paper, Fazle Rabbi and his co-authors consider a new way to support marginalized individuals, most of whom are women, through the introduction of a new donation model where development agencies provide goats to project beneficiaries. Goat ownership might help beneficiaries generate income and devote more time to education. The research results show that the proposed donation model significantly enhances the economic empowerment of participants, providing them a steady income, better access to education, and more access to the financial system – with the results being more pronounced for women.

Ulrich Wohak evaluated tampon tax reforms (efforts to reduce the taxation of menstrual hygiene products, including tampons, pads, and menstrual cups) as a means to address gender-based tax discrimination. Using transaction-level scanner data, the study finds that when countries lower their standard VAT rates, the extent to which these reductions are passed on to consumers ranges from 57 percent to 119 percent.

Concluding Remarks

The ISET conference “Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Time of Crisis” brought together diverse voices, perspectives, and expertise from various sectors to engage in discussions and knowledge sharing on how to advance gender equality in times of normality and in times of crises. The conference also served as a platform to inspire actionable solutions and commitments to address the multifaceted challenges women face worldwide.

List of Participants

  • Alessandro ToppetaAssistant Professor at SOFI, Stockholm University, Sweden. “Parental Beliefs, Perceived Health Risks, and Time Investment in Children: Evidence from COVID-19” (in collaboration with Gabriella Conti and Michele Giannola).
  • Anne DevlinResearch Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Ireland. “The Impact of COVID-19 on Women’s Employment in Ireland” (in collaboration with Adele Whelan, Seamus McGuinnes, Paul Redmond).
  • Aswathi Rebecca AsokPhD Fellow, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom. “Unveiling Gendered Dimensions of “Volunteerism”: The COVID-19 Story of Kerala, India”.
  • Barbara Będowska-SójkaHead of Department, Poznań University of Economics and Business, Poland. “Editorial boards of finance journals: the gender gap and social networks” (in collaboration with Claudia Tarantola, C., Mare, C., Ozturkkal, B., Paccagnini, A., Perri, R., Pisoni, G., Shala, A., Skaftad´ottir, H., K.).
  • Davit KeshelavaLead Economist, ISET Policy Institute.
  • Elizabeth BrainerdSusan and Barton Winokur Professor of Economics and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Brandeis University.
  • Eva AtterlövDeputy Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden.
  • Fazle RabbiDeputy Head of School of Business, Crown Institute of Higher Education, Australia. “From Goats to Education: An Innovative Approach to Community Empowerment” (in collaboration with Laurel Jackson and Zahid Hasan).
  • Fethiye Burcu Türkmen-CeylanResearch Fellow, Ahi Evran University, Turkey. “Educate a Woman, And You Educate a Generation: How Does Maternal Education Affect Intro Household Resource Allocation for Education among the Children?” (in collaboration with Ulucan, H., Çakmak, S.).
  • Francisco LagosProfessor of Economics, Georgetown University, USA. “Weight, Attractiveness, and Gender when Hiring: a Field Experiment in Spain” (in collaboration with Catarina Goulão, Juan Antonio Lacomba, and Dan-Olof Rooth).
  • Jacklyn Makaaru ArinaitweDirector, Ace Policy Research Institute, Uganda. “Gender, culture, norms, and practices that promote gender gaps in the allocation of time to unpaid domestic work in the context of COVID-19 in Uganda” (in collaboration with Twinomugisha David).
  • Kaori IshikawaUN Women Country Representative to Georgia.
  • Liis RoosaarLecturer at the Chair of Economic Modelling, University of Tartu, Estonia. “Child penalty in academia: Event study estimate” (in collaboration with Jaan Masso, Jaanika Meriküll, Kärt Rõigas, and Tiiu Paas).
  • Lubna NazAssociate Professor, Institute of Business Administration. Pakistan. “Left High and Dry: Gendered impacts of Drought on school attainment in Rural Pakistan”.
  • Maria FloroProfessor Emerita Economics, American University in Washington, DC.
  • Michal MyckDirector, Centre for Economic Analysis (CenEA), Poland. “Pre-retirement employment protection: no harm when times are good” (in collaboration with Paweł Chrostek, and Krzysztof Karbownik).
  • Monika OczkowskaSenior Research Economist, CenEA, Poland. “Patterns of harassment and violence against women in Central and Eastern Europe. The role of the socio-economic context and gender norms in international comparisons” (in collaboration with Kajetan Trzcinski and Michal Myck).
  • Nabamita DuttaProfessor of Economics, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, USA. “Lockdown and Rural Joblessness in India: Gender Inequality in Employment?” (in collaboration with Kar, S.).
  • Nani BendelianiProject Analyst, UN Women Georgia.
  • Nino ChelidzeProgram Director of Women’s Initiative for Security and Equity at Mercy Corps.
  • Nino LortkipanidzeWomen in Tech Ambassador for Georgia and Chief Innovation Officer at The Crossroads.
  • Nino OkribelashviliVice Rector for Research at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University.
  • Ramon Cobo Reyes CanoProfessor of Economics, Georgetown University, USA. “Anticipated Discrimination and Wage Negotiation: A Field Experiment” (in collaboration with Gary Charness and Simone Meraglia).
  • Reina ShehiPrimary Appointment Lecturer, Epoka University, Albania. “Patterns of Geographic Gender-Based Violence in Albania” (in collaboration with Endi Tirana and Ajsela Toci).
  • Salome GelashviliLead Economist, ISET Policy Institute, Georgia. “Gender-based violence in the South Caucasus” (in collaboration with Lobjanidze, G., Seturidze, E., Shubitidze I.).
  • Saumya KumarAssistant Professor (Economics), University of Delhi, India. “Gender Differential in Parental Investment in Education: A Study of the Factors Determining Children’s and Adolescents’ Educational Investment in India” (in collaboration with Jawaharlal Nehru).
  • Sumit S. DeoleScientific Assistant, Trier University, Germany. “The Causal Impact of Education on Gender Role Attitudes: Evidence from European Datasets” (in collaboration with Zeydanli, T.).
  • Tamar SulukhiaDirector ISET and ISET Policy Institute.
  • Ulrich WohakTeaching and Research Associate, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. Free the Period? Evaluating Tampon Tax Reforms using Transaction-Level Scanner Data (in collaboration with Kinnl, K.).
  • Velan NirmalaProfessor of Economics, Pondicherry University, India. “Women Empowerment and Intimate Partner Violence in India” (in collaboration with Lusome, R).

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

How to Undermine Russia’s War Capacity: Insights from Development Day 2023

Image from SITE Development Day conference

As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine continues, the future of the country is challenged by wavering Western financial and military support and weak implementation of the sanction’s regime. At the same time, Russia fights an information war, affecting sentiments for Western powers and values across the world. With these challenges in mind, the Stockholm Institute for Transition Economics (SITE) invited researchers and stakeholders to the 2023 Development Day Conference to discuss how to undermine Russia’s capacity to wage war. This policy brief shortly summarizes the featured presentations and discussions.

Holes in the Net of Sanctions

In one of the conference’s initial presentations Aage Borchgrevink (see list at the end of the brief for all presenters’ titles and affiliations) painted a rather dark picture of the current sanctions’ situation. According to Borchgrevink, Europe continuously exports war-critical goods to Russia either via neighboring countries (through re-rerouting), or by tampering with goods’ declaration forms. This claim was supported by Benjamin Hilgenstock who not only showed that technology from multinational companies is found in Russian military equipment but also illustrated (Figure 1) the challenges to export control that come from lengthy production and logistics chains and the various jurisdictions this entails.

Figure 1. Trade flows of war-critical goods, Q1-Q3, 2023.

Source: Benjamin Hilgenstock, Kyiv School of Economics Institute.

Offering a central Asian perspective, Eric Livny highlighted how several of the region’s economies have been booming since the enforcement of sanctions against Russia. According to Livny, European exports to Central Asian countries have in many cases skyrocketed (German exports to the Kyrgyzs Republic have for instance increased by 1000 percent since the invasion), just like exports from Central Asian countries to Russia. Further, most of the export increase from central Asian countries to Russia consists of manufactured goods (such as telephones and computers), machinery and transport equipment – some of which are critical for Russia’s war efforts. Russia has evidently made a major pivot towards Asia, Livny concluded.

This narrative was seconded by Michael Koch, Director at the Swedish National Board of Trade, who pointed to data indicating that several European countries have increased their trade with Russia’s neighboring countries in the wake of the decreased direct exports to Russia. It should be noted, though, that data presented by Borchgrevink showed that the increase in trade from neighboring countries to Russia was substantially smaller than the drop in direct trade with Russia from Europe. This suggests that sanctions still have a substantial impact, albeit smaller than its potential.

According to Koch, a key question is how to make companies more responsible for their business? This was a key theme in the discussion that followed. Offering a Swedish government perspective, Håkan Jevrell emphasized the upcoming adoption of a twelfth sanctions package in the EU, and the importance of previous adopted sanctions’ packages. Jevrell also continued by highlighting the urgency of deferring sanctions circumvention – including analyzing the effect of current sanctions. In the subsequent panel Jevrell, alongside Adrian Sadikovic, Anders Leissner, and Nataliia Shapoval keyed in on sanctions circumvention. The panel discussion brought up the challenges associated with typically complicated sanctions legislation and company ownership structures, urging for more streamlined regulation. Another aspect discussed related to the importance of enforcement of sanctions regulation and the fact that we are yet to see any rulings in relation to sanctions jurisdiction. The panelists agreed that the latter is crucial to deter sanctions violations and to legitimize sanctions and reduce Russian government revenues. Although sanctions have not yet worked as well as hoped for, they still have a bite, (for instance, oil sanctions have decreased Russian oil revenues by 30 percent).

Reducing Russia’s Government Revenues

As was emphasized throughout the conference, fossil fuel export revenues form the backbone of the Russian economy, ultimately allowing for the continuation of the war. Accounting for 40 percent of the federal budget, Russian fossil fuels are currently mainly exported to China and India. However, as presented by Petras Katinas, the EU has since the invasion on the 24th of February, paid 182 billion EUR to Russia for oil and gas imports despite the sanctions. In his presentation, Katinas also highlighted the fact that Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports for EU have in fact increased since the invasion – due to sanctions not being in place. The EU/G7 imposed price cap on Russian oil at $60 per barrel was initially effective in reducing Russian export revenues, but its effectiveness has over time being eroded through the emergence of a Russia controlled shadow fleet of tankers and sales documentation fraud. In order to further reduce the Russian government’s income from fossil fuels, Katinas concluded that the whitewashing of Russian oil (i.e., third countries import crude oil, refine it and sell it to sanctioning countries) must be halted, and the price cap on Russian oil needs to be lowered from the current $60 to $30 per barrel.

In his research presentation, Daniel Spiro also focused on oil sanctions targeted towards Russia – what he referred to as the “Energy-economic warfare”. According to Spiro, the sanctions regime should aim at minimizing Russia’s revenues, while at the same time minimizing sanctioning countries’ own costs, keeping in mind that the enemy (i.e. Russia) will act in the exact same way. The sanctions on Russian oil pushes Russia to sell oil to China and India and the effects from this are two-fold: firstly, selling to China and India rather than to the EU implies longer shipping routes and secondly, China and India both get a stronger bargaining position for the price they pay for the Russian oil. As such, the profit margins for Russia have decreased due to the price cap and the longer routes, while India and China are winners – buying at low prices. Considering the potential countermoves, Spiro – much like Katinas – emphasized the need to take control of the tanker market, including insurance, sales and repairs. While the oil price cap has proven potential to be an effective sanction, it has to be coupled with an embargo on LNG and preferrable halted access for Russian ships into European ports – potentially shutting down the Danish strait – Spiro concluded.

Chloé Le Coq presented work on Russian nuclear energy, another energy market where Russia is a dominant player. Russia is currently supplying 12 percent of the United States’ uranium, and accounting for as much as 70 percent on the European market. On top of this, several European countries have Russian-built reactors. While the nuclear-related revenues for Russia today are quite small, the associated political and economic influence is much more prominent. The Russian nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, is building reactors in several countries, locking in technology and offering loans (e.g., Bangladesh has a 20-year commitment in which Rosatom lends 70 percent of the production cost). In this way Russia exerts political influence on the rest of the world. Le Coq argued that energy sanctions should not only be about reducing today’s revenues but also about reducing Russian political and economic influence in the long run.

The notion of choke points for Russian vessels, for instance in the Danish strait, was discussed also in the following panel comprising of Yuliia Pavytska, Iikka Korhonen, Aage Borchgrevink, and Lars Schmidt. The panelists largely agreed that while choke points are potentially a good idea, the focus should be on ensuring that existing sanctions are enforced – noting that sanctions don’t work overnight and the need to avoid sanctions fatigue. Further, the panel discussed the fact that although fossil fuels account for a large chunk of federal revenues, a substantial part of the Russian budget come from profit taxes as well as windfall taxes on select companies, and that Russian state-owned companies should in some form be targeted by sanctions in the future. In line with the previous discussion, the panelists also emphasized the importance of getting banks and companies to cooperate when it comes to sanctions and stay out of the Russian market. Aage Borchgrevink highlighted that for companies to adhere to sanctions legislation they could potentially be criminally charged if they are found violating the sanctions, as it can accrue to human rights violations. For instance, if companies’ parts are used for war crimes, these companies may also be part of such war crimes. As such, sanctions can be regarded as a human rights instrument and companies committing sanctions violations can be prosecuted under criminal law.

Frozen Assets and Disinformation

The topic of Russian influence was discussed also in the conference’s last panel, composed of Anders Ahnlid, Kata Fredheim, Torbjörn Becker, Martin Kragh, and Andrii Plakhotniuk. The panelists discussed Russia’s strong presence on social media platforms and how Russia is posting propaganda at a speed unmet by legislators and left unchecked by tech companies. The strategic narrative televised by Russia claims that Ukraine is not a democracy, and that corruption is rampant – despite the major anti-corruption reforms undertaken since 2014. If the facts are not set straight, the propaganda risks undermining popular support for Ukraine, playing into the hands of Russia. Further, the panelists also discussed the aspect of frozen assets and how the these can be used for rebuilding Ukraine. Thinking long-term, the aim is to modify international law, allowing for confiscation, as there are currently about 200 billion EUR in Russian state-owned assets and about 20 billion EUR worth of private-owned assets, currently frozen.

The panel discussion resonated also in the presentation by Vladyslav Vlasiuk who gave an account of the Ukrainian government’s perspective of the situation. Vlasiuk, much like other speakers, pointed out sanctions as one of the main avenues to stop Russia’s continued war, while also emphasizing the need for research to ensure the implications from sanctions are analyzed and subsequently presented to the public and policy makers alike. Understanding the effects of the sanctions on both Russia’s and the sanctioning countries’ economies is crucial to ensure sustained support for the sanction’s regime, Vlasiuk emphasized.

Joining on video-link from Kyiv, Tymofiy Mylovanov, rounded off the conference by again emphasizing the need for continued pressure on Russia in forms of sanctions and sanctions compliance. According to Mylovanov, the Russian narrative off Ukraine struggling must be countered as the truth is rather that Ukraine is holding up with well-trained troops and high morale. However, Mylovanov continued, future funding of Ukraine’s efforts against Russia must be ensured – reminding the audience how Russia poses a threat not only to Ukraine, but to Europe and the world.

Concluding Remarks

The Russian attack on Ukraine is military and deadly, but the wider attack on the liberal world order, through cyber-attacks, migration flows, propaganda, and disinformation, must also be combatted. As discussed throughout the conference, sanctions have the potential for success, but it hinges on the beliefs and the compliance of citizens, companies, and governments around the world. To have sanctions deliver on their long-term potential it is key to include not only more countries but also the banking sector, and to instill a principled behavior among companies – having them refrain from trading with Russia. Varying degrees of enforcement undermine sanctions compliant countries and companies, ultimately making sanctions less effective. Thus, prosecuting those who breach or purposedly evade sanctions should be a top priority, as well as imposing control over the global tanker market, to regain the initial bite of the oil price cap. Lastly, it is crucial that the global community does not forget about Ukraine in the presence of other conflicts and competing agendas. And to ensure success for Ukraine we need to restrain the Russian war effort through stronger enforcement of sanctions, and by winning the information war.

List of Participants

Anders Ahnlid, Director General at the National Board of Trade
Aage Borchgrevink, Senior Advisor at The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Torbjörn Becker, Director at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics
Chloé Le Coq, Professor of Economics, University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas, Economics and Law Research Center (CRED)
Benjamin Hilgenstock, Senior Economist at Kyiv School of Economics Institute
Håkan Jevrell, State Secretary to the Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade
Michael Koch, Director at Swedish National Board of Trade
Iikka Korhonen, Head of the Bank of Finland Institute for Emerging Economies (BOFIT)
Martin Kragh, Deputy Centre Director at Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS)
Eric Livny, Lead Regional Economist for Central Asia at European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
Anders Leissner, Lawyer and Expert on sanctions at Advokatfirman Vinge
Tymofiy Mylovanov, President of the Kyiv School of Economics
Vladyslav Vlasiuk, Sanctions Advisor to the Office of the President of Ukraine
Nataliia Shapoval, Chairman of the Kyiv School of Economics Institute
Yuliia Pavytska, Manager of the Sanctions Programme at KSE Institute
Andrii Plakhotniuk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Sweden
Daniel Spiro, Associate Professor, Uppsala University
Adrian Sadikovic, Journalist at Dagens Nyheter
Kata Fredheim, Executive Vice President of Partnership and Strategy and Associate Professor at SSE Riga
Lars Schmidt, Director and Sanctions Coordinator at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Lessons From the FROGEE Conference “The Playing Field in Academia: Why Are Women Still Underrepresented?”

Image of dark university area with two men representing women underrepresented in academia

Despite an increase in women’s representation since the beginning of the 20th century, women remain underrepresented in academia and other high-skilled professions. Academia has been prone to gender disparities both within and across fields as well as across academic ranks. In an endeavour to examine and address the underrepresentation of women in the academic profession, the Centre of Economic Analysis (CenEA), together with the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and other partners of the Forum for Research on Gender Economics (FROGEE) at the FREE Network, organized the two-day conference “The playing field in academia: Why are women still underrepresented?”, in Warsaw June 21-22, 2023. This brief offers insights from the presentations and panel discussions held at the conference.

To date, there are few, if any, high-skilled professions exhibiting gender balance, and academia is no exception. Consequently, this imbalance has been subject to increased multidisciplinary research attention, exploring its origins and potential remedies. However, attaining a comprehensive understanding of gender disparities remains a challenge. For instance, much remains to be learnt about their long-run dynamics, a subject addressed by Carlo Schwarz, in one of the conference’s keynote lectures.

A Century of Progress

Carlo Schwarz (in joint work with Alessandro Iaria and Fabian Waldinger, 2022) trace the evolution of gender gaps in academia across a variety of domains at the global level throughout the 20th Century. Facilitated by an unprecedentedly large database of nearly 500,000 academics, spanning 130 countries and supplemented by publication and citation data, the authors specifically examine gender imbalances in recruitment, publishing, citation patterns, and promotions.

They find that in 1900 women constituted roughly 1 percent of all hires in academia (226 women, with only 113 hired as full professors). By 1969 the share of female academics had risen to about 6.6 percent, and by the year 2000 it had grown to approximately 17 percent. These rates varied across disciplines, institutions, and countries. For instance, teaching-centric disciplines such as pedagogy and linguistics, exhibited higher representation relative to research-oriented ones.

The research subsequently reveals a hump-shaped evolution of the gender gap in academic output – starting small before peaking at 45 percentage points fewer publications by women in 1969, thereafter declining to 20 percentage points. These publication disparities were also found to share a U-shaped relationship with the share of women in academia, indicating the interconnectedness of gender gaps.

The authors also address gender gaps in citations, identified by the use of a novel machine learning approach, forecasting a paper’s citations had it been written by a man. The results indicate a progressive reduction in the citation gap during the 20th century, decreasing from 27 percentage points (pre-WW1) to 14 percentage points (interwar) and eventually to 8 percentage points (post-WW2) fewer citations of papers by female relative to male academics. These gender gaps in academic output reiterated current evidence from Mexico, presented at the conference by Diana Terrazas-Santamaria, showing that women are associated with lower citation rates. Terrazas-Santamaria attribute the low rates to gender differences in both the number of publications and duration of academic careers.

The work by Iaria, Schwarz and Waldinger (2022) further showcase the gender disparities in career advancement in academia, which similarly decreased over the years.  At the point of the greatest gender disparity, women required an approximately 6 percentage points better publication record to have the same promotion probabilities as their male counterparts.

The Leaky, Dry Pipeline

In the conference’s second keynote, Sarah Smith highlighted how academia, much like other professional occupations, exhibits a leaky pipeline. This is a phenomenon characterized by a declining representation of women as they ascend through the academic hierarchy. When examining specific fields, Smith’s results indicate that the gender disparities in economics much more closely align with those observed in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) than other social science disciplines. Furthermore, the economics’ field illustrate a significant lack of diversity among its new entrants. This phenomenon, referred to as the dry pipeline, generates future cohort implications, as they result in less demographically representative cohorts from which future professors can be recruited (see Stewart et al., 2009).

The cross-disciplinary comparison of the dry pipeline addressed in the keynote, contest the mathematical rigor of economics as a barrier to entry, as mathematics itself demonstrated higher women representation at A-level and undergraduate levels. In a following discussion panel, which focused on ensuring a fair start in academia (comprised of Yaroslava Babych, Alessandra Casarico, Federica Braccioli and Marta Gmurek, and moderated by Maria Perrotta Berlin), the panellists acknowledged that deeply engrained social expectations, gender trained behaviours and a lack of awareness constitute some of the persistent hindrances to the (early) involvement of women in specific fields, and the academic profession in general.

Additional factors influencing the gender balance in recruitment and promotion are gendered references, and the presence or absence of shared research interests between candidates and recruitment panels. These themes were extensively investigated in the work presented by Alessandra Casarico on the conference’s opening day. Specifically, results from collaborative work with Audinga Baltrunaite and Lucia Rizzica, highlight that grindstone words (e.g., “determined”, “hardworking”, etc.) are frequently used in recommendation letters to describe female candidates, while standout words (e.g., “excellent”, “strongest” etc.) typify male candidates’ references. Compared to their male counterparts, women are also shown to be more inclined to accentuate personality traits when serving as referees. This added to a broader literature demonstrating that female candidates’ recommendation letters frequently exhibit brevity, raise doubts, carry a weak tone, and emphasize candidates’ interpersonal skills and personality traits rather than their ability. Moreover, separate results from Casarico’s work (with Piera Bello and Debora Nozza) illustrate that research similarity between the recruiting committee and the candidate predict the likelihood of recruitment. The authors argue that the relationship is indicative of a bias against women if – as shown by the authors – women are less likely to be the candidates with the highest similarity.

In her presentation, Anne Sophie Lassen offered a different factor that may contribute to the attrition in the pipeline: the influence of parenthood on academic careers. Results from her work (with Ria Ivandić) indicate that while parenthood does not significantly influence graduation rates, it extends doctoral studies by an average of 7 months for women. Moreover, Lassen highlighted a declining trend of remaining in academia after becoming a parent, particularly pronounced among women.

More Areas of Imbalance

The remaining conference presentations and panel discussions explored additional domains of gender imbalances within academia. Iga Magda showcased evidence from her joint work with Jacek Bieliński, Marzena Feldy and Anna Knapińska of gender differences in remuneration during the early stages of an academic career, substantiating a gap within a year of graduation. These disparities endure throughout respondents’ careers and are contingent on the field of study – largest among engineering and technology graduates and lowest among those from the humanities and arts fields. Furthermore, it was observed that productivity plays a negligible role in the identified pay gaps, as its impact is similar for both genders.

The panel composed of Eleni Chatzichritou, Marta Łazarowicz-Kowalik, Jesper Roine and Joanna Wolszczak-Derlacz, and moderated by Michał Myck, deliberated on exposed disparities in the application for, and the success rates in attaining research funding in Poland and Europe – as seen in the National Science Centre (NCN) and the European Research Council research grants, respectively. The discussion highlighted how quantitative measures used in the allocation of research funding are riddled with subjective criteria that often benefit male academics. They also recognized how quests to allocate funds to the most successful candidate inadvertently penalize women with career breaks.

Another panel including Lev Lvovskiy, Carlo Schwarz, Sarah Smith, Marieke Bos and Joanna Tyrowicz, and moderated by Pamela Campa, lauded the growing objective data shedding light on gender inequalities in academia. The panellists discussed current challenges in identifying and quantifying aspects of gender disparities. For instance, currently used proxies do not allow to capture more subtle disparities, like microaggressions faced by female academics from students – emphasizing the need for more individual level survey data.

The panels were further enriched by personal anecdotes and filled with retrospective advice shared by both early career and established academics. To contextualize the above, a few cases from the FREE Network countries follow.

Evidence From Within the FREE Network

Yaroslava Babych shared insights concerning women in higher education in Georgia and other countries of the South Caucasus. Preliminary findings of her study confirm the presence of gender inequality in academia, evident in disparities in access to higher education as well as gender segregation across both fields and countries. Notably, women comprise a majority of the graduates in bachelor’s and master’s of art programs, whereas higher research-level programs such as doctors of science, and top echelons of the academic hierarchy remain predominantly male. Moreover, female academic output is found to be lower than that of male counterparts.

Lev Lvovskiy discussed the case of Belarus, highlighting the influence of the Soviet legacy. A significant factor linked to this legacy is exploiting university enrolment to circumvent compulsory conscription of men, allowing male university admissions to serve a secondary purpose beyond acquiring knowledge. This increases the perceived opportunity cost of enrolling a woman. Lvovskiy further documented the academic trajectories of Belarusians, revealing a majority of women at college and doctoral levels, but being underrepresented among doctoral graduates. The results further indicate significant cross-disciplinary gender disparities, with humanities having close to 80 percent women representation and engineering and information and technology (IT) fields having less than 30 percent women representation.

Monika Oczkowska provided evidence of gender disparities in Poland. Findings from the country reveal an overrepresentation of women graduates from bachelor through doctoral levels, and relative parity at post-doctoral level, but lower proportions at habilitation, associate professor, and professor levels. These general results confirm the higher detail findings presented by Karolina Goraus-Tanska on the first day of the conference. Results from Goraus-Tanska’s work (with Jacek Lewkowicz and Krzysztof Szczygielski) suggest that the drop-off among female academics from habilitation levels is not attributed to higher output expectations for women, but rather stems from the impact of parenthood.

Oczkowska further demonstrated that female academics in Poland are characterized by fewer international collaborations and lower levels of international output. Polish female academics were also showcased to engage in more international mobility during their doctoral studies relative to men, with the converse holding true after obtaining a doctoral degree. A potential explanation for this mobility decline among female academics, could be the increased burden of familial responsibilities at the post-doctoral and higher levels. Moreover, fewer women were reported to have applied for NCN grants and were underrepresented among the beneficiaries of these calls. Lastly, female academics in Poland record significantly lower total project costs relative to their male counterparts.

‘Plugging’ the Leak

In light of the aforementioned, what measures can be taken to address the gender imbalances in academia? As summarized by Sarah Smith, early initiatives have involved tracking women representation (e.g., in admissions, progression, hiring, etc.) within departments and/or institutions to identify where in the pipeline their progress is impeded. Attempted initiatives include formulation of seminar guidelines to overcome unfair experiences, as well as using gender-blind recruiting and objective hiring criteria to equalize hiring opportunities. Some other efforts, such as diverse recruitment panels have been unsuccessfully adopted, as they seem to embolden hostile male recruiters and load female panellists with unrewarded administration tasks. Conversely, mentoring has helped women build networks, publish more, and advance professionally. Awareness raising campaigns have reduced disparities in teaching evaluations and remain vital in addressing the dry pipeline and both transparent workload allocation and rewarding of administrative tasks have been shown to reduce promotion gaps in academia. In addition to the above, initiatives such as fostering gender-neutral networking opportunities, collaborations and a more diverse faculty were also deliberated during the conference.

Concluding Remarks

The conference advanced dialogue on societal and structural constraints to gender equality in academia and provided a platform to exchange ideas on how the shared objective of a more inclusive and equitable academic environment can be achieved. While the challenges remain abundant, and the costs associated not always negligible, it remains crucial to assess achievements, such as those resulting from mentoring and awareness intervention initiatives and recognize that further opportunities to enhance equity within the profession exist.

Additional Material

Seminar Programme 21.06.2023

Seminar Participants – short bios

Conference Programme 22.06.2023

Conference Participants – short bios

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

The Future of Energy Infrastructure Resilience in Europe

20220524 The Energy and Climate Crisis Image 01

In the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, large parts of Europe have experienced skyrocketing energy prices and a threat of power shortages. The need to transition to low-carbon energy systems, driven by sustainability concerns, further adds to the pressure put on the European energy infrastructure. This year’s Energy Talk, organized by Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics, invited four experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges of energy infrastructure resilience in a foreseeable future.

Introduction

Energy infrastructure has an indispensable role in facilitating the functioning of modern society, and it must – today as well as in the future – be resilient enough to withstand various challenges. One of the most important challenges – the green transition: shifting towards economically sustainable growth by decarbonizing energy systems and steering away from fossil fuels – requires energy infrastructure to absorb subsequent shocks. Another, and preeminent challenge, is that, even when directly targeted and partly destroyed as in the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine, energy infrastructure should be withstanding. Additionally, energy infrastructure is increasingly subject to supply chain disruptions, energy costs increase or network congestions. How does our energy infrastructure react to these challenges? How do they affect its ability to facilitate the needs of the green transition? Which regulations/measures should be implemented to facilitate energy infrastructure resilience?

Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) invited four speakers to the 2023 annual Energy Talk to discuss the future of Europe’s Energy infrastructure resilience. This brief summarizes the main points from the presentations and discussions.

Energy System Resilience in the Baltics

Ewa Lazarczyk, Associate Professor at Reykjavik University, addressed the question of energy system resilience, focusing on the Baltic States and their dependence on Russia and other neighbors to fulfill their electricity needs.

The Baltic States are not self-sufficient when it comes to electricity consumption. Since 2009, Lithuania has become a net importer of electricity, relying on external sources to fulfill its electricity demand. Similarly, Estonia experienced a shift towards becoming a net importer of electricity around 2019, following the closure of environmentally detrimental oil fueled power plants.

The Baltics are integrated with the Nordic market and are heavily dependent on electricity imports from Finland and Sweden. Additionally, all three Baltic States are part of the BRELL network – a grid linking the electricity systems of Belarus, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – which provides stability for their electrical networks. As a result, despite the absence of commercial electricity trading between Estonia and Russia, and limited commercial trading between Russia and the other two Baltic states, the power flows between the Baltic States and Russia and Belarus still exist. This creates a noticeable dependency of the Baltics on Russia, and a potential threat, should Russia decide to disconnect the Baltics from BRELL before the planned separation in 2024/2025.

This dependency was put on trial when Russia on May 15th 2022 cut its electricity trade with Europe. On the one hand, the system proved to be relatively resilient as the cut did not lead to any blackouts in the Baltics. On the other hand, price volatility amplified in its main import partner countries, Sweden and Finland, and congestion increased as compared to 2021.

Figure 1. Price volatility in Sweden and Finland before and after the trade cut.

Notes: Sweden is split into four price zones, SE1-SE4. Finland is split into only one price zone. Source: Lazarczyk and Le Coq, 2023.

This increased price volatility and congestion following the Russian halt in electricity trade gives an indication that the Baltics and the Nordics are vulnerable to relatively small supply cuts even at the current demand levels.

In the future, electricity consumption is however expected to increase throughout the region as a result of the electrification of the economy (e.g., by 65 percent in 2050 in the Nordic region). This highlights the need to speed up investments into energy infrastructure of internal energy markets.

In summary; recent events have demonstrated a remarkable resilience of the Baltic State’s electricity system. While the disruption of commercial flows from Russia did have some impact on the region, overall, the outcome was positive. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the region relies heavily on electricity imports, and with increasing demand for power in both the Baltics and the neighboring areas, potential issues with supply security could arise if the demand in the Nordics cannot be met through increased production. The risk of an early disconnection from the BRELL network further amplifies this concern. However, the case of Ukraine – which managed to abruptly disconnect from Russian electricity networks – serves as an example that expediting the process of establishing new connections is feasible, although not risk free.

The Ukrainian Energy Sector and the Immediate Threat from Russia

While the Baltics are facing the effects from the Russian halt in electricity trade and the threat of a potential premature disconnection from BRELL, Ukraine’s energy networks are at the same time experiencing the direct aggression from Russia.

Yuliya Markuts, Head of the Center of Public Finance and Governance at the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), and Igor Piddubnyi, Analyst on Energy Sector Damages and Losses and Researcher at the Center for Food and Land Use Research at KSE, both gave insight into the tremendous damages to the Ukrainian energy system from Russian attacks, the short-term solutions to cope with the damage, as well as the long-term implications and reconstruction perspectives.

Since the invasion, about 50 percent of the energy infrastructure has been damaged by shelling. In addition, several power plants are under Russian control or located in Russian occupied territories. As of February 2023, nearly 16 GW of installed capacities of power plants remained in Russian control, equivalent of the peak demand. Apart from the damages to the producing side, transmission and distribution facilities have also been severely affected, as well as oil storage facilities. In April 2023, the damages to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure were estimated to amount to $8.3 billion, almost 6 percent of the total estimated direct damages from the war.

While the damages are massive, the population did not experience complete blackouts, and the Ukrainian energy system did not collapse. This is partly due to diesel-driven generators substituting much of the damaged electricity generation and partly due to a fall in demand of about 30-35 percent in 2022, mainly driven by decreased industry demand.

In the short term, Ukraine is likely to continue to face Russian attacks. Its top energy priorities would thus be to restore damaged facilities and infrastructure like heating and clean water, increase the stocks of fuel, gas, and coal, and to try to liberate occupied areas and facilities. Another vital aspect of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure and its resilience towards the Russian goal of “freezing” the country relates to energy efficiency. Ukraine’s energy efficiency has been relatively low, with the highest rate of electricity losses in Europe, and the numbers are also high for gas supply and district heating. Here, minor changes such as light bulb switching, can have great impacts. Additionally, solar panels – especially those that can also store energy – can help alleviate the acute pressure on the transmission grid. Other vital measures involve continued donations from Ukraine’s partners, sustained efforts from energy workers – at the risk of their lives – and persistent successful deterrence of cyber-attacks currently targeting the country.

Achieving a greener energy system is currently challenging (if not nearly impossible) due to the use of diesel-driven generators, the attacks on the energy system, and the fight for control over nuclear power plants such as Zaporizhzhia, which since March 2022 is under the control of Russian forces. Damages to renewable energy production further exacerbate these difficulties.

Thus, it is crucial to ensure that the planning and reconstruction of Ukraine’s energy sector is done in accordance with the European Green Deal. By 2030, the country should have at least 25 percent renewables in its energy mix, which would require substantial installations of at least 13 GW of wind, solar, small hydro and biogas capacities. In addition, transition entails decommissioning old coal power plants to run on natural or biogas instead of coal.

While this is a tall task, investments targeted to the energy system are not only essential for Ukraine’s population to sustain through the 2023/2024 winter – but also to facilitate the green transition in Europe. The potential for export of biomethane, green hydrogen, and nuclear power from Ukraine to Europe is considerable. As Europe’s biofuel demand is expected to increase by 63 percent while Ukrainian grain exports are still proving to be challenging, biofuel production for export on the European market is a particularly likely future scenario for the Ukrainian energy market.

In summary; the Ukrainian energy sector has done remarkably well, considering the impact of the damages from the Russian aggression. As Ukrainian short-term energy priorities lie in facilitating quick and efficient responses to infrastructural damages, current measures may not be particularly environmentally friendly. However, the longer-term reconstruction of Ukraine’s energy sector has great potential for being in line with the green transition objectives.

Energy System’s Resilience in the Green Transition

Mikael Toll, Senior Advisor at Ramboll Management Consulting highlighted the importance of infrastructure resilience. He emphasized the significance of the Energy Trilemma in achieving a successful transition to greener energy systems. This trilemma implies balancing between energy security, environmental sustainability, and affordability, all representing societal goals. Focusing on the energy security aspect of this trilemma, he stressed that energy infrastructure should be part of a more holistic approach to the problem. It is essential to establish resilient supply chains and implement efficient management procedures to prevent and mitigate the negative consequences of disruptions. It entails ensuring the performant infrastructure and supply, but also fostering well-functioning markets, putting in place state-governed crisis management mechanisms, and cooperation with other states. By combining these elements, one can enhance preparedness both in normal times and during crises.

Sweden as an Example

Sweden has since long been increasing its share of renewables in the energy mix, as depicted in Figure 2. This suggests that it is relatively well-prepared to the needs of the green transition. However, electricity demand is expected to increase by 100 percent in the coming years, driven by increased electrification of the industry and transport sectors, adding pressure to Sweden’s electricity system. The need for more investments in several energy systems is tangible, and investment opportunities are numerous. However, political decisions concerning the energy system in Sweden tend to be short-sighted, even though energy infrastructures have a long lifespan – often well over 50 years. As a result, investment risks are often high and change character over time, which creates a lack of infrastructure investment. Other challenges to Sweden’s energy resilience include limited acceptance of new energy infrastructure among the public, time-consuming approval processes, and a lack of thorough impact assessment.

Figure 2. Total supplied energy in Sweden, 1970-2020.

Source: Swedish Energy Agency, 2022.

Further, the current geopolitical context creates an increased need to consider external threats – such as energy system disruptions resulting from the Russian war on Ukraine – and increased dependency on China as a key supplier of metals and batteries required for electrification. It is also important to realize that external influence may affect not only physical infrastructure but also domestic decision-making processes. This calls for more energy and political security alongside the green transition, in combination with higher readiness against security threats and a reassessment of global value chains.

In summary; to successfully move into a greener future, it is necessary to invest in energy systems and infrastructure based on a careful multi-dimensional analysis and with the support of long-sighted political decisions. At the same time, we must push investments that also consider the security threats from and dependencies on global actors.

Conclusion

This year’s Energy Talk provided an opportunity to hear from leading experts on the current situation of Europe’s energy resilience. It outlined the key challenges of the green transition in the current geopolitical and economic context. Greener solutions for Europe’s energy system will require tremendous physical efforts and investments but also political will and public understanding. There are, however, immense benefits to be realized if the associated risks are not overlooked.

On behalf of the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics, we would like to thank Ewa Lazarczyk, Yuliya Markuts, Igor Piddubnyi and Mikael Toll for participating in this year’s Energy Talk. The presentations from the webinar can be seen here.

References

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

European Democracy Through the Lens of Party Manifestos

A group of flags representing European countries, displayed on flagpoles with a clear blue sky in the background representing European democracy

The subjects of political discourse are important but hard to quantify. This brief uses data from 30 years of party manifestos to study how the dominant topics in politics have evolved across Europe. Transition countries have seen the most significant shift in the content of political discourse. In the early 1990s, party manifestos in Eastern Europe focused on a distinct set of topics related to transition; by recent elections they had converged to those in Western Europe, with a heavy emphasis on the welfare state, education, infrastructure and technology. Political discourse can change rapidly in times of crisis as shown by the example of Ukraine.

“It’s the economy, stupid!”

James Carville, Bill Clinton’s strategist for the 1992 election.

The dominant topics in politics are not always as apparent as when Bill Clinton was elected US president in the midst of a recession. While it is easy to track winners across election cycles, it is much harder to know what got them elected and what they will do (or at least, promise to do) once in power. The key issues and topics that political parties and candidates talk about form as important a part in our democracies as vote shares.

In this brief, we use data collected by the Manifesto Project (Lehmann et al., 2022) to describe the development of political discourse across Europe, with a particular focus on the differences and similarities between western European countries and transition economies in Eastern Europe.

Political Manifestos as Data

In most countries, voters mainly participate in the democratic process by voting for candidates put forward by political parties. Political parties advertise themselves to voters and distinguish themselves from each other by issuing party programmes or party manifestos where they lay down their ideological and policy positions.

The Manifesto Project provides a publicly available dataset on parties’ policy platforms. The data are based on the manifestos of parties that have won at least one (Western Europe) or two seats (transition countries) in a national election. Coders manually analyse the content of the manifestos and provide the percentage of each party’s manifesto that falls into one of 56 content categories. These content categories summarise a party’s policy position on given issues, for instance, whether they favour environmental protection or an expansion of the welfare state or oppose protectionism or multiculturalism.

The Manifesto Project is an example of “text as data“. Quantitative analysis based on text is becoming increasingly important across the social sciences (Gentzkow et al., 2019) but it is particularly useful in political economy and political science given that “language is the medium of politics“ and objective numerical data are often limited (Grimmer and Stewart, 2013). Unlike many recent approaches which process data using automated text analysis tools, the Manifesto Project relies on the judgement of coders from over 50 countries who read the original text. The resultant dataset has limitations: the subjective choices made by individual coders, the to-some-extent arbitrary determination of content categories to summarise the most relevant issues across different contexts and time periods and the difficulty of imposing consistent classifications for texts written in over 40 languages. Despite these caveats, it is a unique resource for analysing the evolution of countries’ political discourse over time and across countries.

Key Issues in Political Discourse

Figure 1 summarises, through content categories, the policy positions of parliaments in Western Europe and transition countries at two points in time: the early 1990s (around the time of the first democratic elections in most transition countries) and after the latest election. We measure the importance of a policy position in a country’s parliament by weighting the importance of the relevant content category in each party’s manifesto by that party’s vote share. Over time, our measure of a policy position’s importance in political discourse may increase or decline for two reasons. First, parties may change the extent to which they emphasise a given position in their manifestos. For example, parties across the political spectrum are likely to have increased references to healthcare in their manifestos during election campaigns held during the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, as voters’ preferences shift, parties that gain support will see their issues receive greater weight in the aggregate measure relative to parties that lose vote shares. For example, if the pandemic shifted voters’ preferences towards a more comprehensive welfare system, voters could respond by voting for parties which discuss the expansion of the welfare state in their manifestos.

Figure 1. Policy positions of parties in parliament.

Source: The Manifesto Project and authors’ calculations.
Notes: This chart shows word clouds of the main topics that feature in the manifestos of political parties in parliament, weighted by each party’s vote share and averaged across countries within a region. Panels a and b are based on the first election after 1990 (and before 1995) and Panels c and d are based on the latest election (after 2015) in the sample. Western Europe includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Transition economies include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Not all countries are represented in both periods.

Some striking patterns emerge. While the policy priorities of Western European parliaments remain relatively stable over the past 30 years, those of transition countries have changed markedly. During the transition period, many parties focused on the political and economic aspects of transition. Support for democracy, freedom and human rights, as well as the free market economy, featured heavily in the manifestos of parties that formed the first democratic parliaments. Over time, policy priorities in transition countries have become more similar to those of their western neighbours, and issues such as the expansion of the welfare state, the provision of education, and the importance of technology and infrastructure, have come to the fore in all countries.

Nevertheless, some differences still remain. For instance, environmental protection is one of the most important topics in western European parliaments, though its importance has declined over time. In transition countries, the environment is slowly becoming more important, but even in the latest elections it ranked at only number 16 out of 56 issues. In contrast, support for the “national way of life” was and continues to be a prominent part of the political discourse in transition economies and it is also becoming more mainstream in the Western European countries.

Political corruption and governmental and administrative efficiency have become relatively more important issues in the parliaments of transition countries, both over time and relative to their western neighbours. Meanwhile, parties in Western Europe are devoting more of their manifesto to calls for equality and social justice.

A Closer Look at Ukraine

A country’s parliament’s policy platform can change suddenly in response to shocks. Figure 2 shows the big topic groups in the manifestos of political parties in the Ukrainian parliament from 1998 to 2019. The parliamentary election in October 2014 closely followed the Euromaidan Revolution, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the start of the Donbas war. Compared to the previous elections, external relations became a major issue in the Ukrainian parliament, driven in particular by increased mentions of the military and the relationship with the EU. Party manifestos heavily featured appeals to Ukrainian nationhood, national solidarity, and unity (as evidenced by the increasing importance of the content category “Fabric of Society”). The trend of increasing attention to freedom and democracy also continued in this election cycle. In contrast, the previously most important issues in elections (welfare and quality of life) received much less attention in parliament at times of political upheaval and military conflict.

Figure 2. Topics in Ukrainian elections.

Source: The Manifesto Project and authors’ calculations.
Notes: This chart shows the percentage of mentions of topic groups in the manifestos of political parties in the Ukrainian parliament from 1998 to 2019, weighted by each party’s vote share.

Distribution of Political Ideology

While the previous section discussed the main policy issues in parliament, we now turn our focus to the ideology of individual political parties that make up a country’s parliament. A commonly used summary measure of political ideology is a left-right scale (RILE), where left positions favour peace, state intervention in the economy and the expansion of the welfare state and right positions support security, traditional values and the free market economy. The Manifesto Project provides a RILE value for each party at each election (based on Laver and Budge, 1992), which is calculated by subtracting the share of a party’s manifesto devoted to left-leaning policy issues, for instance support for the welfare state, from right-leaning content, such as support for the free market economy. Condensing the complexity of party programmes into a one-dimensional measure based on fixed definitions has advantages and drawbacks. The RILE makes it possible to compare diverse political parties that campaign on different issues (for instance ecological parties compared to nationalist parties) and measure how the same party’s policy stance may have shifted over time. As the definition of left- and right-leaning issues were based on influential political theories around the 1900s, some scholars argue that this measure has become less appropriate to empirically differentiate between modern political parties, particularly in transition countries (see, e.g., Mölder, 2016). In particular, Tavits and Letki (2009) show that during the transition process many leftist parties in Eastern Europe pursued economically right-wing policies and Vachudova (2008) argues that right-wing parties in the region often appealed to a nationalist discourse.

With these caveats in mind, Figure 3 shows the distribution of all parties in parliament in the Manifesto Project database on the RILE scale, weighted by their respective vote shares. In Western Europe in the 1990s, the chart shows the prominence of both centre-left and centre-right parties, as well as smaller parties both on the more extreme left and right. In contrast, the parties in parliament in transition economies at the time were more concentrated in the centre (and slightly towards the right). Fast forward 30 years and the distribution of political ideology has changed in both the east and the west. In Western Europe, the majority of parliamentarians are now situated slightly right of centre with little mass in the more extreme tails. In contrast, in the former transition countries, there is evidence of political polarisation with party representation moving both to the left and the right on the ideological spectrum and relatively few parliamentarians occupying the centre.

Figure 3. Left-right position of parties in parliament.

Source: The Manifesto Project and authors’ calculations.
Notes: This chart shows the density of parties in parliament on the left-right policy scale (RILE), weighted by each party’s vote share within their country. The dashed lines are based on the first election after 1990 (and before 1995) and the solid lines are based on the latest election (after 2015) in the sample. Western Europe includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Transition economies include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Not all countries are represented in both periods.

Conclusion

What are the main topics of political discourse? Are they different across countries? Do they change over time? While there is no perfect way to quantify and track political discourse over time, this brief uses data from parties’ manifestos provided by the Manifesto Project to illustrate some broad trends across Europe over the past 30 years.

We document two kinds of changes in the subject matter of party manifestos. First, there are gradual shifts in content that reflect underlying developments in society. As democracies have matured in Eastern Europe, the content of their parties’ manifestos has evolved away from the immediate concerns of economic and political transition and converged to those of Western European parties. Second, more abrupt shifts can arise when countries experience crises or institutional upheaval. Over the past decade Ukrainians have lived through a revolution, the Donbas war, and the ongoing Russian invasion. Most of the parties that represent them in parliament are new, and the issues that feature prominently in their manifestos are now markedly different from those before the Euromaidan revolution.

Manifestos are not just about substance but also about ideology. Using the Manifesto Project’s classification of parties on a left-right scale, we show how the distribution of parties has evolved in Western Europe and transition countries. By this measure, political polarisation has been increasing in transition countries where centrist positions are less well represented than in Western European parliaments.

References

  • Gentzkow, Matthew, Bryan Kelly, and Matt Taddy. (2019). “Text as data”, Journal of Economic Literature 57, no. 3: 535-74.
  • Grimmer, J., and Stewart, B. (2013). “Text as data: The promise and pitfalls of automatic content analysis methods for political texts”. Political analysis 21, no. 3: 267-297.
  • Lehmann, P., Burst, T., Matthieß, T., Regel, S., Volkens, A., Weßels, B. and Zehnter, L. (2022) The Manifesto Data Collection. Manifesto Project (MRG / CMP / MARPOR). Version 2022a. Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB). https://doi.org/10.25522/manifesto.mpds.2022a
  • Laver, M. and Budge, I. (eds.). (1992). Party Policy and Government Coalitions, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: The MacMillan Press.
  • Mölder, M. (2016). The validity of the RILE left–right index as a measure of party policy. Party Politics, 22(1), 37–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068813509525
  • Tavits, M. and Letki, N. (2009). When Left Is Right: Party Ideology and Policy in Post-Communist Europe. American Political Science Review, 103(4), 555-569. doi:10.1017/S0003055409990220
  • Vachudova, M. A. (2008). Centre—Right Parties and Political Outcomes in East Central Europe. Party Politics, 14(4), 387–405. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068808090252

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.