Tag: Gender

How Are Gender-role Attitudes and Attitudes Toward Work Formed? Lesson from the Rise and Fall of the Iron Curtain

20190114 How Are Gender-role Attitudes Image 01

Gender differences in attitudes toward work and gender-role attitudes are important determinants of gender inequality in the labor market. In this brief we show that these attitudes vary considerably across countries and can also change within the same country over a relatively short time period. We then present evidence that politico-economic regimes that make substantial effort to bring women into the labor market can shape these attitudes: gender differences in attitudes toward work decrease, and gender-role attitudes become less traditional. Cultural norms with long historical roots are not necessarily invariant to large shocks, and policies aimed at raising women’s presence in the labor market can activate virtuous cycles of increasing female employment. 

Gender inequality and cultural attitudes

Levels of gender inequality in the labor market differ considerably worldwide, even among countries at similar levels of economic development. Policies, technology, and economic conditions have long been shown to play an important role in explaining cross-country and regional differences in gender inequality. More recently, researchers have emphasized the role of cultural attitudes, such as women’s attitudes toward work and gender role attitudes (i.e. the beliefs that individuals hold regarding the appropriate roles of men and women in societies). Fortin (2008), for instance, finds that gender differences in attitudes towards work account for part of the existing gender wage gap in the US.  Further, Fernández et al. (2004) show that differences in gender-role attitudes partly explain existing variation in female labor force participation. Given that gender differences in attitudes toward work and gender-role attitudes contribute to explain gender inequality in the labor market, economists have recently started studying the origins of these attitudes and their sources of variation over time.

In this policy brief we first document variation across space and over time in gender differences in attitudes toward work and gender-role attitudes; then, we present evidence that politico-economic regimes that put emphasis on women’s inclusion in the labor market can shape these attitudes.

Gender-role attitudes and attitudes toward work across space and over time

The World Values Survey (Inglehart et al., 2014) asks questions, among others, about the importance of work in one’s life, and about one’s beliefs on the appropriate roles for women and men in society.

Based on these questions, we measure gender differences in the importance given to work, and levels of agreement with statements regarding gender roles.  Below we show that such measures vary considerably among a sample of countries in Europe and Central-Asia, as well as within countries over time.

Figure 1 shows gender differences in the percentage of survey respondents who reported that work was very important or rather important to them in the survey wave of 1995-1998. There is substantial cross-country variation in whether men or women give more importance to work, and in the magnitude of the gender difference. Moreover, the underlying variation across women is larger than across men (data not shown): the minimum and maximum values among men are 84% (in Georgia) and 97.5% (in Bosnia), whereas the respective values for women are 77% (in Georgia) and 96.6% (in Macedonia).

Figure 1. Gender differences in attitudes toward work

Source: Data are from the 1995-1998 wave of the World Values Survey. Individuals are asked the following question: Please say, for each of the following, how important is work in your life, and the options given are Very important, Rather important, Not very important, Not at all important. Countries selected are those in Europe and Central Asia where the question was asked in the 1995-1998 wave.

Figures 2 and 3 show variation across countries in gender role attitudes. The share of respondents who agree with the statement “A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work “varies from a minimum of 47% in Poland to a maximum of 93% in Finland. The share of respondents who agree with the statement “Both the husband and wife should contribute to household income” varies from a minimum of 78% in Armenia and Finland to a maximum of 98% in Albania.

Figure 2. Working mother: warm relationship with her children.

Source: Data are from the 1995-1998 wave of the World Values Survey. Individuals are asked the following question: People talk about the changing roles of men and women today. For each of the following statements I read out, can you tell me how much you agree with each?. Do you agree strongly, agree, disagree, or disagree strongly? A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work. Countries selected are those in Europe and Central Asia where the question was asked in the 1995-1998 wave.

Figure 3. Husband and wife should both contribute to income.

Source: Data are from the 1995-1998 wave of the World Values Survey. Individuals are asked the following question: People talk about the changing roles of men and women today. For each of the following statements I read out, can you tell me how much you agree with each. Do you agree strongly, agree, disagree, or disagree strongly? Both the husband and wife should contribute to household income. Countries selected are those in Europe and Central Asia where the question was asked in the 1995-1998 wave.

A recent strand of the economics literature analyzes the long-term determinants of attitudes and finds that they have very deep historical roots (see Giuliano, 2018). However, attitudes also evolve over time. Figures 4 and 5 show that while in some countries attitudes remain rather stable after 1998, in other countries they change substantially. In Russia, for instance, the gender difference in attitudes toward work has doubled over a period of ten years, with men becoming from 5 to 10 percentage points more likely than women to report that work is important to them. Turning to gender-role attitudes, the percent of respondents who think that a working mother can have a warm relationship with her children has increased the most in countries as different as Macedonia and Spain. The percent of individuals who think that both husband and wife should contribute to income has increased relatively sharply in Moldova, while declining rather substantially in Montenegro and especially in Serbia.

Figure 4. Gender differences in attitudes toward work over time.

Source: See Note to Figure 1.

Figure 5. Gender role attitudes over time.

Source: See Notes to Figures 2 and 3.

The graphs thus suggest that the attitudes considered here vary not only cross-sectionally but can also change over a relatively short time period. A natural question to ask is then: what type of shocks cause a change in gender differences in attitudes toward work and in gender role attitudes?

The role of politico-economic regimes in shaping attitudes

In recent work (Campa and Serafinelli, 2018), we show that politico-economic regimes that focus on women’s inclusion in the labor market can reduce gender differences in attitudes toward work and make gender-role attitudes less traditional. Studying the question of whether politico-economic regimes can change attitudes is difficult, because countries or regions exposed to different regimes are likely very different along many other dimensions, including their history, which is known to shape attitudes. To circumvent this problem, we exploit the imposition of state-socialist regimes across Central and Eastern Europe and their efforts to promote women’s economic inclusion (see Campa and Serafinelli, 2018). First we focus on the socialist regime that emerged in East-Germany in 1949. This regime favored women’s access to tertiary education and to qualified employment through massive childcare provision and other policies that were popular throughout the entire Central and Eastern European region. Conversely, in West-Germany, women were encouraged to either stay home after they had children or take part-time jobs after extended breaks (Trappe, 1996; Shaffer, 1961). Since East and West-Germany before 1949 were part of the same country and as such had a common history and shared institutions, we can compare attitudes in East- and West-Germany after the separation to isolate the impact of different politico-economic regimes on attitudes. In other words, the underlying hypothesis is that attitudes toward work and gender role attitudes in East- and West-Germany were the same before the separation. Such a hypothesis is arguably valid especially because we compare only individuals who, during the separated years, lived relatively close to the East-West border (e.g. within 50 km from the border), and are, thus, expected to have close enough (geography, culture and social norm-driven) preferences and attitudes before the separation.

The results of the comparison can be summarized as follows: (a) due to exposure to a different politico-economic regime, East-German women participated more in the labor market and became more educated than their West-German counterparts; (b) the importance given to work by East-German women increased, which led to a lower gender gap in attitudes toward work with respect to West-Germany; (c) both women and men in East-Germany developed less traditional attitudes than West Germans regarding the relationship of working mothers with their children and the gender division of roles in the household.

In the second part of the paper, we also extend the analysis to a number of transition countries in the Central and Eastern European region. We show that in Central and Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1990 gender-role attitudes became less traditional than in Western Europe.

Conclusion

In this brief we have documented that gender differences in attitudes toward work and gender role attitudes vary substantially across space and can change over a relatively short time period. Since these attitudes affect the level of gender inequality in the labor market, understanding their determinants is important and policy-relevant. In recent work (Campa and Serafinelli, 2018), we exploit the imposition of state-socialist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and show that individuals exposed to different regimes develop different attitudes toward work and different gender-role attitudes.

Such a finding suggests that policies aimed at increasing women’s participation in the labor market can activate virtuous cycles; namely, such policies might improve the cultural acceptance of female work, thus potentially further raising women’s labor force participation. The evidence from the Central and Eastern European region also suggests that history is not necessarily an excuse for inaction regarding women’s participation in the labor market. While deeply rooted cultural norms can be an obstacle to women’s economic empowerment, these norms are not necessarily absolutely time-invariant, and can respond to important economic and policy shocks.

A caveat to such conclusions is that the evidence presented here is specific to women’s attitudes toward work and attitudes regarding the acceptability of female work. Other attitudes and norms are also important in defining the level of gender equality in a society, such as those involving the division of roles in a couple when both couple members work outside of the home, the acceptability of violence against women, the suitability of women and men to different fields of education. Little is known about these attitudes and more research is needed to understand which policies, if any, can change them.

References

  • Campa, P. and M. Serafinelli (2018), Politico-economic regimes and attitudes: Female workers under state-socialism, Review of Economics and Statistics, Forthcoming
  • Fernández, R., A. Fogli and C. Olivetti (2004), Mothers and sons: Preference formation and female labor force dynamics, Quarterly Journal of Economics 119(4): 1249–1299.
  • Giuliano (2018). Gender: A Historical Perspective, in Oxford Handbook on the Economics of Women, ed. Susan L. Averett, Laura M. Argys, and Saul D. Hoffman, New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • Inglehart, R., C. Haerpfer, A. Moreno, C. Welzel, K. Kizilova, J. Diez-Medrano, M. Lagos, P. Norris, E. Ponarin & B. Puranen et al. (eds.). 2014. World Values Survey: Round Three – Country Pooled Datafile Version: www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSDocumentationWV3.jsp.
  • Shaffer, H (1981), “Women in the two Germanies: A comparison of a socialist and a non-socialist society.”
  • Trappe, H (1996), “Work and family in women’s lives in the German Democratic Republic”, Work and Occupations 23(4): 354–377.

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 Should Policymakers Use Gender Equality Indexes?

We look at the development of gender inequality in transition countries through the lens of the Gender Inequality Index (GII), which aims to capture overall gender inequality. Extending the measure back to 1990, we look at the development of the overall index as well as that of its components. We show that, even though gender inequality in transition countries for the most part has decreased since 1990, once overall development is taken in account these countries appear to fare better in 1990 than today. We also caution against relying exclusively on composite indexes to understand patterns of gender inequality. While the desire of policy makers to get one number that captures gender inequality development is understandable, weak correlations of the GII with other indexes (over years when multiple gender inequality indexes exist) as well as across sub-indexes suggests that such an approach has limitations. Finally, we emphasize the need to understand levels as well as trends and underlying mechanisms to better inform policy to improve gender equality.

On Measuring Progress

When studying economic development, or any issue really, one faces the challenge not only of finding the right way to identify and measure what are often complex changes, but also of communicating the bottom line efficiently. This naturally leads to the search for a single metric according to which we can rank progress and follow it over time. In the realm of economic development the standard measure is GDP growth. But, of course, focusing only on GDP leaves out many important dimensions of development, such as health and education.[1] In an attempt to capture these dimensions, while still arriving at a single number that measures development, the Human Development Index (HDI) was developed in the late 1980s. Since then, a number of alternative indexes capturing additional aspects of human wellbeing have been suggested; see the report by the “Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress” (Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi, 2009).

Just as for overall development, there is great interest in single measures that capture the gender dimension of this development. Over the past decades a number of such “gender equality indexes” have been developed by international organizations such as the UNDP, the EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) and the WEF (World Economic Forum), to name a few.

These measures receive a lot of attention and in particular the reporting of country rankings tends to have an influence on political and policy discussions. The various indexes proposed differ in what dimensions they include (as will be explained below) and, much as a consequence of this, in the time periods they can cover. In some cases (as will also be shown below) it is possible to extend the time coverage of the indexes, but most of the times it is hard to recover the underlying data.

In this brief we summarize what the most popular indexes tell us about the development of gender equality in transition countries, contrasting these to Western European countries.[2] Whenever we have been able to find the underlying data, we also add to publicly available measures by extending indexes back to early 1990s. We then comment on the development of gender equality in transition countries and, perhaps most importantly, on why an indexes-based analysis should be interpreted with some care.

Gender Equality Before 1990

As has often been pointed out, the Soviet Union and many of the countries in Eastern and Central Europe were, at least in some dimensions, forerunners in terms of promoting gender equality (e.g., Brainerd, 2000; Pollert, 2003; Campa and Serafinelli, 2018). This was mainly due to the high participation of women in the labor market as well as the (official) universal access to basic health care and education.

However, some scholars have suggested that not all aspects of gender equality were as advanced in the countries in the Soviet Union and in Central and Eastern Europe (Einhorn, 1993; Wolchik and Meyer, 1985). Even though women were highly integrated in the labor market, they were also still expected to take care of child rearing and house work (UNICEF, 1999). The gender pay gap and gender segregation in the labor market was also similar to levels found in OECD countries. In addition, despite the high number of women in representative positions in communist party politics, women were rarely found in positions of real power in the political sphere (Pollert, 2003).

Generally speaking, while the communist regimes succeeded in promoting women’s access to the labor market and tertiary education, they failed to eliminate patriarchy (LaFont, 2001). Such a dichotomy gives rise to a broad set of questions regarding gender equality in transition countries as well as the measurement of gender equality in this context. What happened to gender equality, in relation to economic growth, during the transition, when new governments often broke with the tradition of promoting women’s employment and education? Did gender equality enhanced by communism leave a legacy or did underlying patriarchic values characterizing many of the communist societies come to dominate? How should we regard developments of indexes that try to weight several components within a context, such as that of transition countries, where these components may move in different directions from each other, given the dichotomy characterizing gender relations?

The Different Indexes

There are several different indexes that are often quoted in policy discussions. Two important measures are the Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Inequality Index (GII), both calculated by the UNDP and reported annually in the Human Development Report (HDR). A third, more recent index that has received increasing attention is the World Economic Forum’s global Gender Gap Index (GGI), which is published in the yearly Gender Gap Report. These three can serve as illustrations of what gender equality indexes typically try to capture.

The Gender Development Index (GDI) essentially measures gender differences in the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI in turn aims to capture achievements in three basic dimensions of human development: health (measured by life expectancy), knowledge (measured by expected and mean years of schooling) and living standards (measured by GNI per capita). The GDI then basically tries to assess the relative performance in these three dimensions for men and women respectively. If health (or education, or income)  in the population on average goes up, this improves the HDI. But to the extent that the improvements are felt differently by men and women, this will show in the GDI. There are several potential problems with the measurement of this index, especially when it comes to dividing GNI per capita between men and women (see e.g. Dijkstra and Hanmer, 2000); on the other hand, the index offers a transparent way to connect gender inequality to the HDI measure.

The other UNDP measure, the Gender Inequality Index (GII), was reported for the first time in the 2010 Human Development Report. It was created to address some of the perceived shortcomings of its forerunner, the Gender Empowerment Index (GEM) which had been introduced together with the GDI in 1995 (see e.g., Klasen and Schuler, 2011 for problems with GDI as well as GEM). The GII measures gender inequalities in three dimensions of human development: 1) reproductive health, measured by maternal mortality and adolescent birth rates; 2) empowerment, measured by representation in parliament and secondary education among adults; and 3) economic status, measured by labor force participation. As with the GDI, the areas of health, education, and economic empowerment are present, but the index also considers some aspects of health that are more directly relevant for women, and includes a component trying to capture political participation. The economic measure of labor force participation is also somewhat easier to interpret (and measure) than GNI divided between men and women. As for the GDI, GII country-values from 1995 are available on the UNDP website.  Conveniently for our purpose, most of the underlying data that the index is based on are also made available from the UNDP for the years 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and every year between 2010 and 2015, with the only exception of female seat share in parliaments in 1990[3]. We downloaded the latter from the World Bank indicators database[4]. We also added information on the share of women in the 1990 Polish Parliament, from the Inter-Parliamentary Union[5], and on the share of women in the 1990 Georgian “Supreme Council,” from Beacháin Stefańczak and Connolly (2015).

A third more recently developed index is the Global Gender Gap Index. This covers areas of political empowerment, health and survival, economic participation and educational attainment, as measured using 14 different variables. An indicator is available for each of the sub areas covered, which are then weighted together in an overall indicator of the gender gap. The Global Gender Gap Index is clearly more detailed and provides a more nuanced picture of existing gender gaps compared to the GDI or the GII. But this amount of detail also comes with potential costs; it is more difficult to interpret the overall index as there are more underlying components that may change simultaneously, and it is also more difficult to reconstruct the index back in time.

What Does the GII Index Tell Us About Gender Equality in Transition Economies?

Among the above mentioned indexes, we focus on the GII here. Extending this measure when possible allows us to study gender inequality starting from 1990 for a limited set of countries (we expand the sample of countries when looking at different dimensions of the GII separately below)[6]. Figure 1 reports values for the index in box plots, which show the index median, maximum, minimum, 75th and 25th percentile for two groups of countries: transition countries and Western-European countries. When interpreting Figure 1, recall that higher GII values imply more inequality.

Figure 1. The Gender Inequality Index in transition countries and Western Europe, 1990-2015

Source: Own calculations based mainly on UNDP data.

Figure 1 shows that based on the GII, median gender inequality is larger in transition countries than in Western Europe and has been so throughout the entire period since 1990. In both regions the index shows a decreasing trend, after an initial increase in 1995 in the transition countries. Below we will show that this is mainly due to a drop in female representation in national parliaments. The variance of the index scores has declined over time in Western Europe, while it remained mostly unchanged in the transition countries[7].

This first piece of evidence from the data is somewhat at odds with the common notion that transition countries enjoy relatively low level of gender inequality. However, two qualifications are in order here. First, transition and Western European countries are generally at different levels of development. Figure 2 displays the country groups performance in relation to their level of human development. This is done by measuring the difference between their GII ranking and their HDI ranking among all the countries with non-missing GII values in the years considered. The larger the difference, the worse the group performance in terms of gender inequality in relation to its level of development.

Figure 2. Difference between Gender Inequality Index ranking and Human Development Index ranking in transition countries and Western Europe, 1990-2015

Source: Own calculations based mainly on UNDP data.

The trends of transition countries and Western Europe are now opposite. In the former group, in 1990 the median standing in terms of gender equality was better than that in human development; this difference appears to have narrowed over time, and it is close to zero in 2015. Western European countries have instead improved their gender equality in relation to their level of overall human development over the period studied. Put differently, the gains in human development made by former socialist countries since the transition have not translated into comparable gains in gender equality as measured by the GII index.

Second, it is also important to emphasize that, as noted above, according to several scholars the socialist push in favor of gender equality was directed only to certain spheres of women’s lives, namely their economic empowerment. This suggests that a composite index can mask important contrasting patterns among its components.

In Figures 3 to 5 we document that different variables indeed paint quite diverging pictures of gender inequality in transition countries.

Figure 3. Development of adolescent births and maternal mortality, 1990-2015

Figure 4. Development of secondary education and share of women in parliament, 1990-2015.

Figure 5. Labor force participation, 1990-2015

Source: Own calculations based mainly on UNDP data.

In each figure we display box-plots for the three areas covered by the GII: health (measured by teenage births and maternal mortality), empowerment (measured by secondary education and share of women in Parliament) and labor force participation. Looking at the different variables separately also allows us to increase the number of countries significantly, since for many countries only the seat share of women in parliaments is missing in 1990.

As the figures show transition countries in 1990 displayed relatively low levels of gender inequality in labor force participation and secondary education. Over the last 25 years, they have kept improving the latter, while the former has stalled, resulting in Western European countries displaying a higher median level of gender equality in labor force participation for the first time around 2010. Reproductive health, while improving since the transition, is still far from converging to Western European standards. Finally, political representation appears to be responsible for the increase in inequality immediately after the transition that we have noted in Figure 1. While it is hard to compare the meaning of representation in the context of 1990 totalitarianisms to that of the democratic regimes emerged later, during the regime change women de facto lost descriptive representation, which was sometime guaranteed in socialist times by gender quotas (Ostrovska, 1994).

In conclusion, breaking down the GII by its components shows that, while Western European countries have invariantly improved their levels of gender equality since 1990, the trend in transition countries depends on the measure one looks at: women maintained but did not improve their relative status in the labor force, they gained more equality in education and especially in terms of reproductive health, and lost descriptive political representation.

What Does the GII Index (And Other Indexes) Not Tell Us?

The conclusion in the previous paragraph raises the question of which other areas of progress, stagnation or deterioration in gender equality in transition countries that might be overlooked in the GII index. Above, we have summarized two more indexes, the GDI and the Gender Gap Index, which focus on additional dimensions of gender inequality but are more limited in terms of time availability. For the time over which there is overlap between the available indexes, the correlation between the GII index and the GDI and the Gender Gap Index respectively, is roughly 0.60. Interestingly, such correlation is higher in the sample of western European countries (0.64 and 0.68 respectively); when the sample is limited to transition countries, the correlations are down to 0.40 and 0.50 respectively.

Several factors might account for the differences across indexes. Unlike the GII, both the GDI and the Gender Gap Index, for instance, include measures of income inequality. On the other hand, the GDI, as pointed out above, does not account for issues related to reproductive health and political representation. The Gender Gap Index is the only one to include, among the health measures, sex-ratios (typically defined as the ratio of male live births for every 100 female births). This turns out to be especially important for some of the transition countries: in the most recent Gender Gap Report, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan remain among the worst-performing countries globally on the Health and Survival sub-index, due to some of the highest male-to-female sex ratios at birth in the world, just below China’s. This goes hand in hand with very high scores in terms of gender equality in enrolment in tertiary education, for which each of these countries ranks first (at par with a few other countries), having completely closed the gender gap. In fact, women are more likely to be enrolled in tertiary education than men.

The relatively low correlation among the different indexes for the group of transition countries also deserves special attention, because it might be a direct consequence of the peculiar history of women’s rights and empowerment in the region. Since some dimensions of gender equality were fostered through a top-down approach, rather than as the result of demands and needs expressed by an organized society, it is more likely that over the last thirty years elements of modernization coexisted with more traditional forms of gender inequality.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that none of the above indexes accounts for important dimensions of gender inequality such as,: gender violence, division of chores in the household, political representation at the local level, and the presence of women in STEM’s professions (where the largest job creation might happen over the next couple of decades). Once more, some of these measures might be particularly relevant for transition countries. Just to mention one example, gender violence is an urgent issue in a few of the countries in the area[8]. A case in point in this respect is Moldova: in 2017, the country ranked 30th out of 144 countries in the Gender Gap Index. Its rank for the sub-index called “Economic Opportunity and Participation” was 11[9]. The country performs especially well in terms of economic opportunity and participation because women not only participate in the labor market in almost equal rates as men, but they are also relatively fairly represented in professions traditionally less feminized elsewhere, such as “professional and technical workers” and “legislators, senior officials and managers.” At the same time, gender violence appears quite prevailing in Moldova: according to the UN, in 2014 “lifetime prevalence of psychological violence” in Moldova was of 60%. Official country statistics also report that the percentage of ever-partnered women aged 15-65 years experiencing intimate partner physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime in 2011 was 46%[10].

While limited in scope, the example above illustrates how some of the available indexes might not capture some important drivers of gender inequality in the region.

Conclusion

In this policy brief, we have reviewed some of the available gender inequality indexes that are commonly used in policy discussion as well as in policy-making.

We have then discussed gender inequality in transition countries focusing on one of these indexes, the Gender Inequality Index, whose span we have extended to the beginning of the transition period. Our analysis has highlighted some points to be mindful of when using comprehensive indexes to discuss gender inequality, especially in transition countries:

  • It can be fruitful to analyze gender inequality indexes in relation to levels of development. Some issues related to gender inequality, such as maternal mortality, are potentially addressed with a comprehensive strategy aimed at overall development. Conversely, other drivers of gender inequality, such as women’s political empowerment or gender violence, might require more targeted policy interventions, since they do not necessary go hand in hand with overall development.
  • While comprehensive indexes can be useful in terms of effective communication, it is often difficult to compress all the potential forms that gender inequality can take into a single index, especially over time. This is due to both conceptual issues and data limitations. Moreover, even when this is done, a comprehensive index can overshadow important sources of gender inequality if it is composed of sub-indexes that move in opposite directions.
  • The previous point can be especially relevant in the context of transition countries, which historically experienced a top-down approach to gender equality, the results of which in the long-term appear to be major advancements in some dimensions of women’s empowerment and contemporary potential backlash in other dimensions. In the context of transition countries, for instance, it has been argued that low levels of female representation in political institutions can be the result of women’s large participation to the labor market while division of roles in the household remained traditional. In the words of anthropologist Suzanne LaFont, “Women have been and continue to be overworked, and their lives have been over-politicized, the combination of which has led to apathy and/or the unwillingness to enter the male dominated sphere of politics. Many post-communist women view participation in politics as just one more burden.”[11] In such a context, average values of an index on gender equality might mask high achievements in economic empowerment coexisting with lack of political representation.
  • Identifying policies to address gender inequality in transition countries might be especially difficult because, depending on the dimension that one focuses on, the challenge at hand is different: in terms of education and employment, the policy goal appears to be maintaining current levels of equality or increasing them from relatively high initial points; the type of policies to do so are likely different than those used in Western European countries in the last 30 years, where the challenge was rather how to increase equality from relatively much lower levels. Conversely, in other dimensions the challenge is how to make major leaps forward, which move transition countries closer to Western European standards: this is the case for sex-ratios, for instance, and reproductive health more in general. The importance of initial levels and trends for policy implications also showcases how crucial it is to acquire more historical knowledge of policies, institutions, and statistics.

Overall, policy discussions and policy-making should go beyond mere descriptions of what indexes and related international comparisons tell us about gender inequality. A better knowledge and understanding of all of the drivers of gender inequality, of their historical evolution, and of their connections both with overall development and among them, is crucial to give sound policy recommendations.

References

  • Beacháin Stefańczak, K.Ó. and Connolly, E.(2015),  ‘Gender and political representation in the de facto states of the Caucasus: women and parliamentary elections in Abkhazia’. Caucasus Survey, 3(3), pp.258-268.
  • Brainerd, E. (2000), ‘Women in Transition: Changes in Gender Wage Differentials in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union’, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 54 (1), pp. 138-162.
  • Campa, P. and Serafinelli, M. (2018), ’Politico-economic Regimes and Attitudes: Female Workers under State-socialism’, Review of Economics and Statistics, Forthcoming.
  • Dijkstra, A. and L. Hanmer (2000), ‘Measuring socio-economic gender inequality: towards an alternative for UNDP’s Gender-related Development Index’, Feminist Economics, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 41-75.
  • Einhorn, B. (1993), Cinderella goes to market: citizenship, gender, and women’s movements in East Central Europe, London: Verso.
  • Klasen, S. and Schuler, D. (2011) Reforming the Gender-Related Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure: Implementing Some Specific Proposals. Feminist Economics. (1) 1 – 30
  • LaFont, Suzanne (2001), ‘One step forward, two steps back: women in the post-communist states.’ Communist and post-communist studies 34(2), pp. 203-220.
  • Ostrovska, I. (1994). Women and politics in Latvia. Women’s Studies International Forum 2, 301–303.
  • Pollert, A. (2003), ‘Women, work and equal opportunities in post-Communist transition’, Work, Employment and Society, Volume 17(2), pp. 331-357.
  • Stiglitz, Joseph, Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi (2009). `The measurement of economic performance and social progress revisited.’ Reflections and overview. Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, Paris.
  • Tur-Prats, Anna (2018). Unemployment and Intimate-Partner Violence:  Gender-Identity Approach. GSE Working Paper No. 1564
  • Unicef. Women in transition. 1999.
  • UN. The World’s Women 2015.
  • Wolchik, S. L. and Meyer, A.G. (1985), Women, State and Party in Eastern Europe, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Footnotes

  • [1] In contrast to a common perception, economists are generally well-aware of the limitations of GDP as a measure of welfare. In fact, the reference manual of national accounts, the SNA 2008, makes this explicit in stating that there is “no claim that GDP should be taken as a measure of welfare and indeed there are several conventions in the SNA that argue against the welfare interpretation of the accounts”.
  • [2] By “transition countries,” we refer to all countries that were part of the Soviet Union plus the Central and Eastern European countries that were heavily influenced by the Soviet Union before 1990 (not including Albania and former Yugoslavia). Starting from this, we – as will be made clear below – sometimes limit the set of countries further depending on data availability.
  • [3] http://hdr.undp.org/en/data
  • [4] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS
  • [5] http://archive.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/2255_arc.ht
  • [6] For Western Europe these countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The transition countries are: Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation.
  • [7] The outlier among Western countries is Malta.
  • [8] While explaining the sources of gender violence in the region is beyond the scope of this report, incidentally we notice that, according to recent research, female economic empowerment in a context where patriarchal values are dominant might backfire against women in the form of increased gender violence. See Tur-Prats, 2018.
  • [9] http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2017/dataexplorer/#economy=MDA
  • [10] UNFPA (2015). Combatting Violence against Women and Girls in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. https://eeca.unfpa.org/en/publications/combatting-violence-against-women-and-girls-eastern-europe-and-central-asia
  • [11] LaFont, Suzanne (2001). One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Women in the Post-Communist States. Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 34, pp 208.

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 Gaps in Transition – What do we learn (and what do we not learn) from gender inequality indexes?

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We look at the development of gender inequality in transition countries through the lens of the Gender Inequality Index (GII), which aims to capture overall gender inequality. By extending the measure back to 1990, we show that even though gender inequality in transition countries for the most part has decreased since the fall of the iron curtain, once overall development is taken into account, transition countries did better in relation to other countries in terms of rank differences before transition. We, however, caution against relying exclusively on composite indexes to understand patterns of gender inequality. While the desire of policy makers to get one number that captures gender inequality development is understandable, weak correlations across different overall indexes, as well as across different sub-indexes that make up each index, suggest that such an approach has limitations.

Indexes of gender inequality

In the public debate of socio-economic issues there is an understandable interest in single measures that summarize complex issues, describe historical developments and allow international comparisons. The use of GDP to measure economic development is the most immediate example of this way of proceeding. The same applies to gender inequality. Over the past decades a number of “gender equality indexes” have been developed by international organizations such as the UNDP, the EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) and the WEF (World Economic Forum), to name a few. These measures receive a lot of attention and in particular the reporting of country rankings tends to have an influence on political and policy discussions.

In this brief, we study the development of the Gender Inequality Index (GII) in transition countries, contrasting these to Western European countries.  By transition countries, we refer to all countries that were part of the Soviet Union plus the Central and Eastern European countries that were heavily influenced by the Soviet Union before 1990 (not including Albania and former Yugoslavia). Whenever we have been able to find the underlying data, we extend the GII measure back to the early 1990s. This extension allows us to measure the development of gender inequality through the lens of a single index since the beginning of the transition. We then discuss what the GII tells us about gender inequality in transition, but also – perhaps more importantly – what it does not tell us. Our analysis is discussed as well as shown in some more detail in our forthcoming companion FREE Policy Paper.

The Gender Inequality Index

The GII was reported for the first time in the 2010 Human Development Report. It measures gender inequalities in three dimensions of human development: 1) reproductive health, measured by maternal mortality and adolescent birth rates; 2) empowerment, measured by representation in parliament and secondary education among adults; and 3) economic status, measured by labor force participation.

GII country-values from 1995 are available on the UNDP website.  Conveniently for our purpose, most of the underlying data that the index is based on are also made available from the UNDP for the years 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and every year between 2010 and 2015, with the only exception of the female seat share in Parliament in 1990. Using the UNDP data, and data on the female seat share in Parliament in 1990 from additional sources (see the FREE Policy Paper for a list of sources), we obtain values for the GII from the beginning of the transition in 1990 until 2015.

What does the GII index tell us about gender equality in transition economies?

Figure 1 reports values for the GII index in box plots, which show the index 25th and 75th percentile (respectively bottom and top of the box), its median (horizontal line in the box), its maximum and minimum (whiskers), and outliers (dots) for two groups of countries: transition countries and Western-European countries. We have reconstructed the values of the GII index for a limited set of countries within these groups (see the note to Figure 1 for the list of countries). When interpreting Figure 1, recall that higher GII values imply more inequality.

Figure 1. The Gender Inequality Index in transition countries and Western Europe, 1990-2015

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Source: Own calculations based mainly on UNDP data. The transition countries are: Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Russian Federation. For Western Europe the countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Figure 1 shows that based on the GII, median gender inequality is larger in transition countries than in Western Europe and has been so throughout the entire period since 1990. In both regions, the index shows a decreasing trend, after an initial increase in 1995 in the transition countries. As we show in the Policy Paper, this decrease is mainly due to a drop in female representation in national parliaments. The variance of the index scores has declined over time in Western Europe, while it remained mostly unchanged in the transition countries.

The evidence from the GII is somewhat at odds with the common notion that transition countries enjoy relatively low level of gender inequality. However, it is important to notice that transition and Western European countries are generally at different levels of development. Figure 2 displays the country groups’ performance in relation to their level of human development. This is done by measuring the difference between their GII ranking and their Human Development Index ranking (HDI) among all the countries with non-missing GII values in the years considered. The HDI is an UNDP-developed measure of overall human development. See the policy paper for details about its measurement. The larger the difference between GII- and HDI-ranking, the worse the group performance in terms of gender inequality in relation to its level of development.

Figure 2. Difference between Gender Inequality Index ranking and Human Development Index ranking in transition countries and Western Europe, 1990-2015

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Source: Own calculations based mainly on UNDP data.

The trends between transition countries and Western Europe are now opposite. In 1990, the median standing in terms of gender inequality was better than that in human development for transition countries, and the relative level of gender inequality was lower than in Western Europe. The (negative) difference between GII and HDI ranking however appears to have narrowed over time, and it is close to zero in 2015. Western European countries have instead improved their gender equality ranking in relation to their ranking in terms of human development over the period studied. Put differently, the ranking improvement in terms of human development in former socialist countries since the transition have not translated into comparable gains in gender equality ranking as measured by the GII index.

It is also important to emphasize that, according to several scholars, a dichotomy in terms of gender relations existed in transition countries during the socialist period. This is because on one hand the socialists put substantial into effort to empower women economically (see e.g. Brainerd, 2000; Pollert, 2003; Campa and Serafinelli, 2018), but on the other hand they failed to eliminate patriarchy (LaFont, 2001). This suggests that a composite index can mask important contrasting patterns among its components. In the Policy Paper we uncover such contrasting patterns. By looking separately at the different components of the GII index, we show that while Western European countries have invariantly improved their levels of gender equality since 1990, the trend in transition countries depends on the measure one looks at: Women maintained, but did not improve, their relative status in the labor force. They gained more equality in education and especially in terms of reproductive health, and lost descriptive political representation.

Conclusion

In this policy brief we have studied the development of gender inequality in transition countries through the lens of the Gender Inequality Index, whose span we have extended to the beginning of the transition period. We have shown that, based on this index, gender inequality has decreased since 1990 in transition countries, a trend which is common to that in Western Europe. However, once the changes in overall development during this period are taken into account, it appears that transition countries fared better in 1990 than today. Our analysis thus shows that analyzing gender inequality indexes in absolute terms and in relation to levels of development can deliver different conclusions. The factors that account for these differences should be kept in mind in policy discussions and policy-making. Some issues related to gender inequality, such as maternal mortality, are potentially addressed with a comprehensive strategy aimed at overall development. Conversely, other drivers of gender inequality, such as women’s political empowerment, do not necessary go hand in hand with overall development, and might therefore require more targeted policy interventions.

We have also cautioned the reader about the limitation of using comprehensive indexes to describe developments in gender inequality. A comprehensive index can overshadow important sources of gender inequality if it is composed of sub-indexes that move in opposite directions. This point can be especially relevant in the context of transition countries, which historically experienced a top-down approach to gender equality, the results of which in the long-term appear to be major advancements in some dimensions of women’s empowerment and contemporary potential backlash in other dimensions. It has been argued, for instance, that low levels of female representation in political institutions in transition countries can be the result of women’s large participation in the labor market while the division of roles in households remained traditional. In the words of anthropologist Suzanne LaFont (2001), “Women have been and continue to be overworked, and their lives have been over-politicized, the combination of which has led to apathy and/or the unwillingness to enter the male dominated sphere of politics. Many post-communist women view participation in politics as just one more burden”. In such a context, average values of an index of gender equality might mask high achievements in economic empowerment coexisting with lack of political representation.

References

  • Brainerd, E. (2000), ‘Women in Transition: Changes in Gender Wage Differentials in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union’, Industrial and Labour Relations Review, 54 (1), pp. 138-162.
  • Campa, P. and Serafinelli, M. (2018), ’Politico-economic Regimes and Attitudes: Female Workers under State-socialism’, Review of Economics and Statistics, Forthcoming.
  • LaFont, Suzanne (2001), ‘One step forward, two steps back: women in the post-communist states.’ Communist and post-communist studies 34(2), pp. 203-220.
  • Pollert, A. (2003), ‘Women, work and equal opportunities in post-Communist transition’, Work, Employment and Society, Volume 17(2), pp. 331-357.

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.

Georgian Experience of Gender Biased Sex Selection

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This policy brief presents the evidence on gender biased sex selection (GBSS) in Georgia, giving an overview of the so-called “sex ratio transition” process, and discussing the determinants of GBSS using a demand and supply-side approach. After its independence from the Soviet Union, Georgia started experiencing a significant rise of the sex ratio at birth (SRB) and in 2004 the country had reached one of the highest SRB rates in the world. A traditionally pronounced son preference was further strengthened by deteriorated economic conditions, decrease in fertility and relatively easy and cheap access to technologies for early sex determination and abortion. However, Georgia has managed to reverse and stabilize a skewed SRB rate. Among the factors that might have contributed are the strengthening of the social security system, improved economic conditions, a rise in fertility rates, economic empowerment of women, and the increased cultural influence of Western values. This trend reversal places Georgia in a unique position and may provide valuable insights for other countries who struggle with the same problem.

It is widely recognized that the Caucasus has traditionally been a “male-dominated region,” with a particularly strong son preference. However, before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, sex ratios at birth in the Caucasus countries were very close to normal levels.

After independence from the Soviet Union, the SRB started rising immediately in Georgia, reaching 114.1 male births per 100 female births by 1999 (while the biologically normal SRB level is 105 male births per 100 female births). In the early 2000s, SRB peaked and stabilized between 112 and 115 male births per 100 female births for several years.  As Figure 1 shows, after reaching historically high levels in 2004, SRB started to decline and finally returned to a normal level by 2016.

Figure 1. Estimated sex ratio at birth in 1990-2016

Source: UNFPA, 2017.

The sex selection here is not discussed as “an archaic practice” in Georgia, but rather a modern reproductive behavior, a rational strategy responding to the surrounding environment – demand and supply factors. Demand-side factors include socio-economic and cultural factors that make having a boy more beneficial for a family and lower the value of girls – leading to son preference. The fertility rate is also accounted as a demand-side factor since low or decreasing fertility can increase incentives to perform selective abortions. As for the supply-side factors, they cover the ease of access to  technologies for early sex determination and selective abortion and its cost, as well as the content of the legislation regulating abortion.

Demand side factors

Factors increasing demand

Son preference and a patrilineal system. The traditional Georgian family is patrilineal. Patrilineality, also known as the male line, is a common kinship system in which an individual’s family membership derives from and is recorded through his or her father’s lineage. It generally involves the inheritance of property, rights, names, or titles by persons related through male kin. In such systems, women join their husbands’ families after marriage and are expected to care for their in-laws rather than their parents. Sons are expected to stay with their parents and take care of them. Thus, patrilineal systems make daughters less beneficial and desirable to their parents compared to sons. UNFPA (2017) concludes that the practice of post-marital co-residence with parents is still quite widespread in Georgian society, and this pattern is biased towards the male kin line, downplaying the role of women and their kin. The patrilocal residence (the situation in which a married couple resides with or near the husband’s parents) is more common in villages (more than 90%) than in urban areas (75%). The incidence of patrilocal residence is the lowest in Tbilisi (69%). In general, patrilocal residence decreases with improving economic conditions.

Demographic change – changes in fertility rates. Low or decreased fertility rates (when other factors favorable for GBSS are in place) mean that families are no longer able to ensure the birth of a son through repeated pregnancies. In societies characterized by strong son preference, and with increasing availability of sex detection technologies, couples start to opt for sex selection because they want to avoid additional births of girls, something that contraception cannot alone ensure. Therefore, low fertility acts as a “squeeze factor,” forcing parents to make choices ensuring the desired gender composition of their family.

An inverse relationship between fertility and SRB is observed in Georgia. The first decade of transition to market economy was severe for the country. Reducing household size was one strategy chosen by Georgian families to cope with increased rates of unemployment, deterioration of the social security system and deprivation of basic needs such as water and electricity. The decline of fertility during the years 1990-2003 coincided with increased SRB levels. When fertility started to rebound in 2003, the “squeeze factor” began to vanish, removing pressure on the SRB. At the same time, the SRB started to decline.

The low value of women. In Georgia, women are stereotypically perceived as natural caretakers, whose core responsibilities involve child care and household duties. They are also expected be obedient to their husbands and let them have leading positions in various activities (UNDP 2013). The majority of the population in the country thinks that men should be the ones who are the family’s decision-makers and that they should also be the main breadwinners. According to a 2010 study, 83% of respondents think that men should be the main breadwinners in the family, and 63% believe that they should also be the family’s decision-makers (CRRC, 2010). It is evident that such attitudes and values contribute to decrease the perceived value of girls in society, compared to boys, and add additional stimulus to GBSS.

Factors decreasing demand

The strengthening of state institutions and the social security system. Georgia has experienced a deep transformation of its social, economic and political systems in the last fifteen years. Reforms were carried out in all sectors. Most importantly, the country totally restructured its social security system, which was practically non-existent in Georgia at the beginning of the 1990’s. Currently, Georgian citizens are offered: a) universal pension system, above the subsistence minimum, which provides a flat rate benefit to all elderly; b) social assistance, which represents a monthly subsidy to poor families, is well targeted, and has contributed to reducing poverty (Kits et al. 2015), and (c) a universal health insurance system which covers all people who are uninsured by private companies and softens the burden of health care expenditures for households.

These changes, together with the improved general economic situation in the country, have decreased the role of the family as a buffer institution offering protection and stability (notably through sons), and provided more formal alternatives for social security, bank loans, contractual employment, etc. Due to this, the (large) intergenerational family is no longer perceived as the only strategy for coping with social and financial uncertainty.

New cultural influence of Western values. From the early 2000s, Georgia has been increasingly exposed to Western norms and culture through media, migration, increased tourism, and the process of economic integration with the European Union. According to experts, this process was accompanied by “media support and an enthusiastic, quasi-propagandistic hail. The general spirit was to promote an image of Georgia as a country open to the world with West-European views and lifestyles” (UNFPA 2017).

Supply side factors

While the availability of technologies for the early determination of sex and for abortion is not the root cause of GBSS, it constitutes a facilitating supply factor. Without prenatal diagnostics and accessibility of abortion, parents would not be able to resort to selective abortions even if they had a pronounced preference for boys.

Currently, Georgia is among the countries offering high-tech reproductive services. Private clinics, hospitals, and special reproductive medicine centers compete to supply reproductive services, and one can easily see the most recent ultrasound technologies in the great majority of the urban facilities. In addition, the cost of an ultrasound test is extremely low, depending on the service provider. This represents only 1.9%-4.8% of the average monthly incomes per Georgian household. In this context, the GBSS-related demand for prenatal diagnostics can easily be accommodated, when it arises.

Conclusion

Georgia has had a unique experience of “sex ratio transition” in the region, which was an integral part of its overall transformation process. The deteriorated social and economic conditions of households following the beginning of the transition process, coupled with easier and cheaper access to prenatal diagnostics were reflected in a skewed SRB and manifested son preference. Only when socio-economic conditions improved, and the country accelerated its institutional strengthening and modernization process, did the SRB returned to its normal level.

It is too early to conclusively state that Georgia is back to normal SRB levels for good. Birth masculinity still remains at a high level i) for third-order births, as the most of the couples are reluctant to have more than three children, and giving birth to a third child is the last chance for families to have a boy; ii) there is a significant urban-rural divide in the context of birth order. For three or higher order births, SRB is significantly distant from normal levels for almost all regions, reaching beyond 145, while in Tbilisi the bias remains moderate; iii) gender-biased sex selection remains high among poor people and ethnic minorities.

If Georgia is to minimize the incidence of GBSS in the future, it needs to act on several fronts: enhance gender equality through qualitative research and civic activism; increase the perceived value of girls and women in the society through policies and initiatives addressing cultural stereotypes, as well as by publicizing illuminated stories of success of girls and women that provide positive role models; monitor SRB trends; support advocacy actions and awareness-raising campaigns on GBSS and encourage the ethical use of sex detection technologies.

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 Economic Development: From Research to Action

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It’s increasingly being acknowledged that gender inequality is not just a human rights issue, but of first order importance for economic development. It is also an issue of high priority for the Swedish government, with the feminist foreign policy gaining a lot of attention worldwide. This policy brief shortly summarizes presentations held during a full day conference at the Stockholm School of Economics on June 1, 2018. The event focused on how gender discrimination negatively impacts the productivity of low and middle income economies, but also how reforms and specific initiatives can better the situation. The perspective was both long term, how norms and laws governing women’s rights have evolved over time, and short term, illustrating the current challenges women and societies face, with a particular emphasis on the situation in Eastern Europe. This was the 7th installment of SITE Development Day – a yearly development policy conference organized with support from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

From Research: Causes, Costs and Remedies

Cross-country differences in gender equality are often explained by variation in formal institutions such as laws and policies, and informal institutions such as social norms, religion and culture. A recent literature has focused on understanding the underlying drivers behind the variation in gender norms, arguing that these norms themselves may be functions of predetermined fundamentals such as geography, language and external shocks such as wars, revolutions or the slave trade. An influential line of research has emphasized that certain agricultural conditions have given prominence to technologies that require more muscular strength (the plow), whereas in shifting agriculture, hand-held tools like the hoe and the digging stick, require less upper body strength, are more labor intensive and easier to combine with child care. The former conditions are therefore associated with a stricter gender division of labor that generated a norm that the natural place for women is in the home. That these differences still linger have been empirically shown looking at cross-country variation in outcomes such as female labor force participation, political representation, inheritance rules, polygamy, parental authority and women’s freedom of movement. The variation is also found among second generation immigrants, where the attitudes from the parents’ ancestry are reflected also among those born and raised in western societies with more equal gender norms.

There has been an increasing emphasis on trying to estimate how gender inequality inhibits economic development, and to put numbers on the foregone economic development and growth from continuing inequality. A key indicator of inequality in this respect is the gender gap in labor force participation. There has been progress globally in this respect, but we are still far from equality and outcomes vary dramatically across regions and countries. Traditional approaches to estimate the benefits of increased female labor force participation (flfp) has assumed perfect substitutability between men and women. New evidence suggests that this may not be true, that men and women are complementary, which implies that increased flfp increases production beyond just the fact that more people are put to work. This also means that more women in work increases the productivity of men, in other words a win-win situation. This complementarity effect can take place at the workplace (think of diversified company boards), but recent research suggests that this is particularly true at the macro level. This is likely because men and women tend to work in different sectors and occupations that are themselves complementary, yielding the additional benefit at the macro level. Estimates of welfare gains of eliminating barriers to female labor force participation to levels seen in the US, suggest improvements of on average 22 % in South Asia and 18 % in the Middle East and North Africa region.

One important policy tool to influence gender outcomes, and sometimes also gender norms, is tax and benefits policy. These sets of policies are almost never explicitly gender biased, but the impact of details of policies in areas such as inheritance law, parental leave, pensions and taxes all affect the incentives that men, women and couples face. It is also important to understand that these policies often operate in an environment that is far from being without a gender bias, suggesting that there may be motivation for government intervention to correct outcomes and also lead the way to slowly change norms. As models of household decision-making suggest that partners may not operate as a unitary actor maximizing joint welfare, and women typically have lower bargaining power within the household, policies that leave discretionary power to the couple may lead to highly unequal outcomes. Instead policies may need to be individualized, such as tax policy and parental leave policy.

The conference also contained a panel specifically focusing on Eastern Europe. The communist legacy meant that these countries, in some dimensions such as flfp, started from much more equal levels than other countries at comparable levels of income in the 1990s. The most immediate gender crisis in some ways was on behalf of men, whose life expectancy dropped dramatically. This crisis for men also created externalities in the form of domestic violence and orphaned children. Since 1990, there has therefore been some reversals in gender outcomes, and in some areas, such as political representation, the region on average performs quite poorly. Individual countries also face very different challenges. In Georgia the sex ratio at birth increased dramatically in the 1990’s as economic hardship and conflict coincided with the introduction of new technology to determine the sex of a child in utero. In Belarus inequality strikes both ways, with men having more than 10 years lower life expectancy, have higher retirement age and are drafted to military service. On the other hand women are under-represented in politics and largely responsible for unpaid homework, partly due to a very generous 3 year-long paid maternity leave policy. The tradition of bride kidnapping in parts of Central Asia (as high as 10-25 % of women in parts of rural Kyrgyzstan) was brought up, and research showing birthweight losses of children to kidnapped mothers equivalent to those measured elsewhere in conflict zones (100-200 g) suggest that this is indeed a real violation of these women.

To Action: Policies for gender equality

The SDG 2030 agenda and the concurrent finance for development process both emphasize the importance of having all sectors of society onboard in the quest of achieving the new development goals. The event therefore included representatives of both the private, public and civil societies, and featured a range of different initiatives across these sectors. A sector in which many women work for foreign companies in developing countries is textile. Here foreign companies can lead the way through initiatives beyond direct wage and employment policies that improve women’s welfare, such as information campaigns devoted to personal hygiene or policies that transfer salaries directly to the personal account of the employees (an approach that matters when there is unequal bargaining power within the household, as shown through research). Also initiatives to reduce harassment and support female careers can make a difference. A sector on the other side of the spectrum is the telecommunications sector, which is very male dominated. This bias typically start from an early age, and is reinforced by gender stereotypes. Active work in the community to early on reaching out with tech programs explicitly targeting girls can make a difference, and so can making people aware of unconscious biases.

Aid agencies and NGOs also play an important role in promoting gender equality in partner countries. Research shows that women in relative terms tend to spend resources in ways that benefit the family more, and discrimination can be counteracted through policies specifically targeting women and trying to strengthening their situation both outside and inside the household. Initiatives that give women access to credits, and foster collective action and political engagement have been tested on large scale in for instance India. Aid financed investment funds target female entrepreneurs, and engage in programs to integrate women into the investment process. Investors also have the leverage to stress the importance of partner companies investing in their female employees, for instance though education, safe transportation and separate changing rooms. A major player like Sida can engage in a dialogue also with partner governments to incentivize them to live up to commitments made in conventions and treaties, but also empower change agents that can put pressure on patriarchic structures. In the health sector, priority is given to sexual and reproductive rights, but beyond targeted interventions it is also important to mainstream a gender perspective into all types of projects and programs. It’s acknowledged that measuring impact is a challenge, and some partners are perceived as more receptive than others, but the perception is that attitudes are changing.

A Government Perspective

From the Swedish government’s side it was emphasized that gender equality is a goal in itself, as well as a prerequisite for economic development. The by now well-known feminist foreign policy is based on three R’s: that all women and girls should have access to rights, representation and resources. The policy is backed up by an action plan with clearly expressed goals in areas of peace and violence, political representation, economic empowerment and sexual and reproductive health rights. These goals will be evaluated for results (a fourth “R”) and, due to international demand, the foreign ministry is currently preparing a handbook for feminist foreign policy to document the process and the lessons learned. In the collaboration with Eastern Partnership countries, gender equality became part of the summit declaration in 2015. There’s an increasing willingness to talk about gender in the partnership countries, but many challenges remain, as also exemplified by recent experience from working in the government of Ukraine. Swedish initiatives are often a catalyst for change, though, with EU politicians and administrators slowly following pace. It was emphasized that to argue for the case of women and girls, data and research is crucial, so the FREE initiative to create a center of excellence in gender economics (FROGEE) was received with much appreciation.

To get more information about the presentations during the day and references to the data and literature discussed above, please visit this page.

Participants at the conference

  • Ann Bernes, Ambassador for Gender Equality and Coordinator of Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • Raphael Espinoza, Senior Economist, IMF.
  • Paola Giuliano, Associate Professor of Economics, UCLA, Anderson School of Management.
  • Michal Myck, Director at CenEa, Poland.
  • Anna-Karin Dahlberg, Corporate Sustainability Manager at Lindex.
  • Richard Nordström, General Director at Hand in Hand.
  • Karin Kronhöffer, Director Strategy and Communication at Swedfund.
  • Anne Larilahti, VP Head of Sustainability Strategy at Telia.
  • Jesper Roine, Deputy Director, SITE.
  • Charles Becker, Research Professor of Economics, Duke University.
  • Tamta Maridashvili, Researcher, ISET-PI, Georgia.
  • Lev Lvovskiy, Research Fellow, BEROC.
  • Elsa Håstad, Director at the Department for Europe and Latin America at Sida.
  • Inna Sovsun, Vice President at Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), Ukraine.
  • Anna Westerholm, Sweden’s Ambassador for the EU Eastern Partnership.
  • Carin Jämtin, Director General at Sida.
  • Torbjörn Becker, Director at SITE.

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.

Women Entrepreneurs in Belarus: Characteristics, Barriers and Drivers

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This policy brief summarizes the results of the research on aspects of female entrepreneurship in Belarus. The aim of this work was to shed a light on what the features of female-owned business in Belarus are and whether there are any differences in the motives and barriers it faces compared with male-owned companies. Results show that female-owned companies are smaller in size, less likely to grow fast and less effective in the monetization and promotion of their innovative products and ideas. This is partly due to differences in social roles, motives, decision-making process and macroeconomic factors.

Women’s entrepreneurship is not just a question of gender equality but one of the sources for the sustainable economic development of the country. The presence of women among decision makers is beneficial for companies’ performance, effectiveness and innovativeness, and impacts the growth of profitability of the company (Akulava, 2016; Noland et al., 2016).

Little is known about the state of women’s engagement in economic governance in Belarus. According to the 5th wave of the BEEPS survey conducted by the World Bank, female top managers operate in around 32.7% of Belarus’ firms and 43.6% of firms have women among their owners (The World Bank, 2013). At the same time EBRD research shows that, on average, for every 10 men taking loans for the development of their own enterprise, only one woman did. Furthermore, the probability of loan rejection is 55% higher for women than for men in Belarus (these average numbers were presented by EBRD representatives during the conference “Business Territory: Women’s View”, Minsk, 2017). Unfortunately there is no information on the size and purpose of the loans, but potentially this may be a sign of discrimination and constraints on women’s economic activity.

We tried to expand the understanding of the role of women in Belarus’ private sector and to uncover individual, social, economic and cultural barriers that affect economic behavior and career choices of women, as well as introduce new drivers for female entrepreneurship in Belarus.

For this purpose we conducted interviews in 3 focus groups with the involvement of women entrepreneurs and also ran a survey that covered 407 owners and top decision-makers in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The data analysis showed that around 30% of businesses belong to women (Table 1). Women tend to choose to operate in wholesale/retail trade, manufacturing, and medical/social services. Trade is the most popular with 28.9% of female-owned companies being part of this industry, while manufacturing stays second (10.1%). Trade also attracts the largest share of the male-owned companies (29.6%), next go manufacturing (23.9%) and construction (18.9%).

Table 1. Sectoral distribution by gender of the owner

 

Female-owned Male-owned
Share in total sample (%) 30.3 69.7
Sectoral distribution
Trade 29.0 29.6
Manufacturing 10.1 23.9
Construction 7.3 18.9
Medical and social services 8.7 1.3
Hotel and catering 8.7 2.5
Transport 7.3 10.1
Other 29.0 13.8

Innovative behavior changes slightly depending on the gender of the owner (33.3% of female- and 38.9% of male-owned companies have implemented innovations during the last 3 years). The measure of implemented innovative activities includes information on whether the company introduced any radical or incremental innovation (product/service/novelty in business processes/new strategy) during the last three years.An average female-owned firm grows much slower than male-owned business (Table 2). The annual sales gain and the sales gain over the last 3 years are 4 times and 2 times smaller respectively. The average number of employees is also smaller among female-owned companies (10 vs. 17 employees). On average, the owner of the male-owned firm has almost 15 years of relevant working and 13 years of managing experience. Similar characteristics for female owners are 12.8 and 9.7 respectively.

However, the realization of the implemented innovations as well as their relevance look more successful among the male-owned businesses. According to the answers in the survey, the profit share due to implemented innovations equals 28.8% among male-owned businesses and just 16.4% among female-owned. Thus, the major part of return is generated by the established business model and not the novelty.

Table 2. Business characteristics by gender of the owner

Female-owned Male-owned
Sales growth 1yr (%) 7.6 27.1
Sales growth 3yr  (%) 18.4 36.1
Size of the company (employees) 10.6 17.3
Age of the company (years) 8.8 10.2
Relevant experience of the owner (years) 13 14.7
Managing experience of the owner  (years) 9.7 12.8
Owners with a higher education (%) 91.3 86.2
Implemented innovation  (%) 33.3 38.9
Profit share of implemented innovations  (%) 16.4 28.8

 

One of the potential reasons for differences in characteristics and performance indicators between genders is self-selection, meaning that women are choosing less productive sectors in order to have more flexibility in balancing various social roles they play. In order to check for this, we compare the characteristics mentioned above in three different sectors (manufacturing, wholesale/retail trade and medical/social services) (Table 2a). The male-owned companies form the majority in the manufacturing sector, while medical/social services industry is mostly presented by female-owned business. Finally, the wholesale/retail trade sector is located somewhere in between and is well presented by both female- and male-companies.

Table 2a. Business characteristics by gender of the owner in manufacturing, wholesale/retail  trade and medical/social services

Wholesale/Retail Trade Manufacturing Medical and social services
Female-owned Male-owned Female-owned Male-owned Female-owned Male-owned
Sales growth 1yr (%) 9.8 31 2 26.2 10 n/a
Sales growth 3yr  (%) 16.4 37.9 5.6 42.3 17.5 n/a
Size of the company (employees) 5.9 14 23.7 19.8 13 8.5
Age of the company (years) 8.8 7.8 16.1 9.2 12.6 16
Relevant experience of the owner (years) 13 13.8 15.3 14.8 15.2 16
Managing experience of the owner  (years) 9.8 11.2 12.3 13.3 10.3 22
Owners with a higher education (%) 85 83 100 89.5 100 50
Implemented innovation  (%) 35 34.1 57.1 57.9 16.7 50
Profit share of implemented innovations  (%) 2.5 25 30 34.1 n/a n/a

There are differences in size and age of the businesses subject to the industry of the businesses. However, controlling for industry does not reveal any significant changes in the picture in terms of companies’ performance and effectiveness. Male-owned firms are still growing faster and are more successful in promoting implemented innovations Thus, this is likely not an issue of self-selection but of the way male and female owners operate their businesses.

The analysis revealed a number of internal and external barriers creating obstacles for doing business that breaks down into the following categories: social roles, educational patterns, decision-making process and general macroeconomic factors.

Women’s social roles in Belarus

Women in Belarus are mainly at the wheel of domestic responsibilities, which are rarely shared with male partners. According to the survey results, 40% of female and just 9% of male entrepreneurs are responsible for at least 75% of family duties (Table 3). 37% of female and only 0.74% of male owners said that they are in charge for taking care of kids. The same is true for the responsibility to stay at home when kids are sick (32.6% vs. 1.28).

Table 3. Distribution of domestic responsibilities by gender of the owner

Women Men
Family duties
less than 25% 10.91 37.5
around 50% 49.10 53.5
more than 75% 40.00 9.00
Kids
taking care of kids 36.96 0.74
staying at home, when kids are sick 32.61 1.48

At the same time, participants of the focus groups admitted that particularly childbirth motivated them to start their own business with flexible working hours and the possibility to work from home, which is generally not possible in corporate business in Belarus. Thus balancing between family and business becomes challenging, impacting career decisions. That motive also appeared in the survey where on average 13% of female and 2.5% of male owners started businesses in order to combine work with parenting. This trend does not change much if we control for industry.

Education

There is no significant gender difference in the educational level of business owners. According to the survey data, 91.3% of female and 86.2% of male owners have a university degree or higher. However, the established social role models of Belarusian women influence both their career and educational choices. Usually girls tend to choose education in arts and humanities, law or economics, rarely going to technical universities. Lack of technical background further prevents their access into hi-tech profitable industries.

Business and economic environment

During the interviews, women stated that “Both men and women businesses face generally the same obstacles in starting up, operational management and strategic development. But in an unfriendly environment – mostly men survive”. Similar messages were obtained from the survey, with almost no significant difference in the estimation of barriers was revealed. The main external barriers mentioned were government control (32.2% of female and 29.3% of male owners), administrative burden (44.1% vs. 41.1%) and tax system (33.5% and 30.5%) (Table 4). Almost all barriers were equally mentioned by the respondents except for corruption. Corruption is the only obstacle that differs between men and women, pointed out by 50% of women, while just 12% of men considered it a problem. We interpret it as women being more risk-averse and less likely do bold and dangerous actions in business like bribing. That corresponds to the literature, which finds women more risk-averse than men (Castillo and Freer, 2018; Croson and Gneezy, 2009).

Table 4. Main obstacles and motives for doing business by gender of the owner

Women Men
Main barriers
Government control 32.2 29.3
Administrative burden and legal system 44.1 41.1
Tax system 33.5 30.5
Corruption 49.7 11.8
Human capital 16.1 17.1
Unfair competition 28.5 26.9
Motivation to start-up business
Sudden business opportunity 47.8 42.8
Willingness to earn more 29 34.6
No chance to continue the previous activity 14.5 13.2
Improvement of state’s attitude to entrepreneurs 13 13.2
Possibility to combine work and parenting 13 2.5

Conclusion

The statistical evidence showed that female-owned businesses are smaller in size and grow more slowly compared with male-owned competitors. There are no signs of gender differences in entrepreneurial innovativeness. However, the monetization of implemented innovations is more successful among male-owned companies.

Altogether, the barriers of female entrepreneurship in Belarus are associated with the huge burden of household duties and childcare; hindered access to technical and business education; lack of managerial experience and industry knowledge. The existing exogenous barriers, excessive control, contradictory regulations and unfriendly entrepreneurial ecosystems are seen as additional constraints and contribute to the quality and dynamics of female business.

The obtained results confirm the necessity for adding a gender perspective to SME’s policy support in Belarus as well as for taking it into account when estimating the potential effects of business support programs and policies.

Further research of women entrepreneurship, collection of reliable statistics, comparison of the results with other transition countries are vital. These will give an encouragement to new gender specific initiatives and will contribute to economic growth and innovative perspectives of Belarus.

References

  • Akulava, M. (2016a). Gender and Innovativeness of the Enterprise: the Case of Transition Countries. Working Paper No. 31.
  • Castillo, M. and M. Freer. (2018). Revealed differences. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 145: 202-217.
  • Croson, R. and U. Gneezy. (2009). Gender Differences in Preferences. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(2): 448-474.
  • Noland, M., Moran, T. and B. R. Kotschwar. (2016). Is gender diversity profitable? Evidence from a global survey. Peterson Institute for International Economics. Working Paper No. 16-3.

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.

Intimate Partner Violence, Norms and Policies

20170306 Intimate Partner Violence - FREE Policy Brief Image

Violence against women has been called by then UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan, “perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive.” Although the spread of domestic violence is difficult to quantify precisely, this is uncontroversially an issue worthy of policy concern. As is often the case, the developing world lags behind. What can development cooperation do? A growing body of economic research, including our recent results, shows that improving women’s economic opportunities matters.

It is not easy to put a figure on the prevalence of violence against women. A recent review (Alhabib et al., 2010) reports that “the prevalence of lifetime domestic violence varies from 1.9% in Washington, US, to 70% in Hispanic Latinas in Southeast US.” As the quote shows, most of the currently available studies were conducted in the US or Europe, although the focus on the developing world is rapidly growing. Besides the geographic bias, the nature of data available on the matter further limits the precision of our knowledge. Surveys (used by the vast majority of studies), crime statistics and administrative health data each suffer from different limitations. One detail, though, consistently emerges in the big picture: the largest share of violence against women is perpetrated by a cohabiting partner or other family members, what is commonly referred to as intimate partner violence or domestic violence.

In addition to the human costs, a growing body of research shows that domestic violence has huge economic costs, including the direct costs of health, legal, police and other services. There are also broader social costs, more difficult to quantify. Domestic violence is likely to reduce women’s participation in productive employment and education, and has also been shown to affect the welfare and education of children.

Legislation and policy

While specific domestic violence laws were uncommon just a few decades ago, many countries have, over the past two decades, adopted or revised legislation. In 2008, the United Nations (UN) launched a dedicated initiative advocating for universal ”adoption and enforcement of national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with international human rights standards.”

Even though issues of implementation and enforcement are more important than the letter of these laws, it is still crucial that laws are there. In such an area where culture and social norms play a big role, legislation can function as a signal of what a society deems acceptable and coordinate behavior to ultimately change social norms. This is why for example the recent law change in Russia was strongly criticized, regardless of the alleged advantages of the new formulation in terms of practical implementation. [A/N: The reform decriminalized and reduced the punishment for attacks that result in “minor injuries”, as long as they do not happen more than once a year, from two years to 15 days in prison. Proponents claimed that declassifying this form of violence from criminal to administrative offense would lower the threshold for reporting, and avoid misapplication by the police for extortion purposes.]

Besides legislation, a broad range of policies in different areas play a role for the prevalence of domestic violence and the fight against it. The knowledge gaps in terms of prevalence hinder the investigation of the factors that amplify or dampen the incidence of domestic violence, and as a consequence make it more difficult to draw implications for policy strategies. Whatever improves the parity between genders and the status of women in a society is however likely to work in the right direction, at least in the long run. Among the policies with established effects in this direction are legal rights for women (for example in terms of political representation); the introduction of role models (for example through cable TV); an improved balance of economic resources within the household (see Jayachandran, 2015 for an overview of the literature).

Development policy

As for many other areas, developing countries tend to lag behind in this respect. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), domestic violence is considered a barrier to sustainable development, with 36%-70% prevalence (Garcia et al., 2005) and an estimated cost of 1.2%-3.7% of GDP (Duvvury et al., 2013). These estimates take into account a broad range of consequences for women and children. Besides direct and indirect health and life expectancy consequences, distorted outcomes for women include lower autonomy, affecting economic and financial decisions, effectiveness of home production, freedom of movement, education and labor market participation and healthcare decisions. Children are affected by distorted reproductive decisions, for example in regard to birth spacing, resulting in lower birth weights and worse chances of survival, and rearing decisions in general. Still these costs can be thought of as a lower bound, given the conservatism of the methodology and the gross under-reporting of violence. Although the main responsibility for policy lies of course within the country, we might still wonder what the international community can do to help, within the framework of development cooperation.

Aid and domestic violence

Even though the donor community agreed, in Addis Abeba in 2015, on a ”beyond aid” agenda to reach the 17 sustainable development goals (see UN, 2015), the main tool of development cooperation is currently still foreign aid. In recent research with Anders Olofsgård and Evelina Bonnier, we investigate the impact of aid on gender-related outcomes, and among them domestic violence. There are three reasons why we expect an impact of development aid on these outcomes. First of all, there may be a direct effect of aid-financed projects on the intended beneficiaries. Many aid projects have nowadays an explicit component targeting women and girls. Moreover, donors also agreed to gender ”mainstreaming” (Beijing Platform for Action, 1995), which implies that gender concerns should be integrated into all policy and program cycles, and that governments should engage in a dialogue on gender and development. This is because women and girls are seen as particularly vulnerable in situations of poverty and conflict, but also potentially instrumental in the general process of development (Duflo, 2012).

Second, aid projects are typically intended to benefit whole communities, and there are often positive externalities that extend beyond the immediately targeted beneficiaries and beyond the stated objectives of the project. Think for instance of immunization drives against infectious diseases (Miguel and Kremer, 2004). When a big enough group of school children are treated against, for example, intestinal worms, far larger communities are also protected due to the now lower probability of contagion, and also the indirect benefits extend to them. Projects targeting livelihoods and jobs can also increase aggregate demand in the community, benefiting those not directly involved in the projects. The ultimate level of spillover goes through economy-wide growth and development. Research shows that gender relations tend to become more equal with economic development and that women tend to gain more than men (Duflo, 2012).

Finally, beyond economic opportunities, positive spillovers can come through transmission of information and attitudes, changing social norms through personal networks, including both direct beneficiaries and others.

Figure 1. Effect of aid on domestic violence

Source: Berlin et al., forthcoming

Figure 1 is based on our empirical investigation linking the most recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in Uganda and Malawi to information on the geographical coordinates of aid projects placement, provided by AidData. Men in the areas exposed to aid (which we define to be within a 15 km radius of at least one aid-financed project) are 11% more likely to share the opinion that beating one’s wife is not justifiable, as compared to men not exposed to aid. This difference is even larger than for women (4%). Most importantly, women exposed to aid are less likely to have experienced some form of violence, physical (–3%), emotional (–9%) and in particular sexual (–24%). We think this might be connected to the improved status of the woman in economic terms. In fact, we find much more modest impacts from exposure to specifically gender-targeted projects (examples of which include “Community participation and development”, “Support for vulnerable groups”, “Improvement of outpatient, maternal and child health services”, “Women’s empowerment for peace”, and “Anti-trafficking for women and children”). We also find that aid presence affects labor market participation for women, but do not find this effect from gender-specific aid. This is consistent with the idea that women’s relative status within the household improves as a consequence of better economic opportunities, in this case induced by aid. Evidence supporting this mechanism is piling up, see Aizer (2010), Bobonis et al. (2013), Heath (2014), Anderberg et al. (2016), Hidrobo et al. (2016), to cite just a few. The types of activities that fall under our definition of gender-specific aid, instead, do not seem to contribute in this respect.

Conclusion

Summarizing recent research, the World Development Report 2015 called for development policy to focus on norms and mental models. These are often highly persistent and hard to change. We know that gender-related norms are important for outcomes that deeply affect the lives of women and girls. We do not know a lot about how to change them, but improving the status of women and girls in society seems to be one important piece of the puzzle. Our recent findings about the impacts of aid imply, echoing the WDR 2015, that this should be an important goal for development cooperation.

References

  • Alhabib, Samia; Ull Nur; and Roger Jones. 2010. ”Domestic Violence Against Women: Systematic Review of Prevalence Studies”, Journal of Family Violence, 25, pp 369–382.
  • Aizer, Anna, 2010. ”The Gender Wage Gap and Domestic Violence”, The American economic review. 100(4),1847-1859.
  • Anderberg, Dan; Rainer, H., Wadsworth, J., & Wilson, T., 2016. “Unemployment and Domestic Violence: Theory and Evidence.” The Economic Journal 126.597, pp 1947-1979.
  • Berlin, Maria P.; Evelina Bonnier; and Anders Olofsgård, forth. “The Donor Footprint and Gender Gaps”, UNU-WIDER Working Paper Series.
  • Bobonis, Gustavo J.; Melissa González-Brenes; and Roberto Castro, 2013. “Public Transfers and Domestic Violence: The Roles of Private Information and Spousal Control.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 5, no. 1
  • Duflo, Esther, 2012. “Women empowerment and economic development”, Journal of Economic Literature, 50(4), 1051-79.
  • Duvvury, Nata; Callan, A.; Carney, P.; and Raghavendra, S.; 2013. ”Intimate partner violence: Economic costs and implications for growth and development.” Women’s Voice, Agency, & Participation Research Series, 3.
  • García-Moreno, Claudia; Jansen, H. A. F. M.; Ellsberg, M.; Heise, L.; and Watts, C., 2005. ”WHO Multicountry Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women: summary report of initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses.” World Health Organization. Geneva.
  • Jayachandran, Seema. 2015. “The roots of gender inequality in developing countries.” economics 7.1, pp 63-88.
  • Heath, Rachel, 2014. “Women’s access to labor market opportunities, control of household resources, and domestic violence: Evidence from Bangladesh.” World Development 57, pp 32-46.
  • Hidrobo, Melissa; Amber Peterman; and Lori Heise, 2016. “The Effect of Cash, Vouchers, and Food Transfers on Intimate Partner Violence: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Northern Ecuador.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 8.3, pp 284-303.
  • UN, 2015. ”Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” United Nations – Sustainable Development knowledge platform.

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Traces of Transition: Unfinished Business 25 Years Down the Road?

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This year marks the 25-year anniversary of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the beginning of a transition period, which for some countries remains far from completed. While several Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) made substantial progress early on and have managed to maintain that momentum until today, the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) remain far from the ideal of a market economy, and also lag behind on most indicators of political, judicial and social progress. This policy brief reports on a discussion on the unfinished business of transition held during a full day conference at the Stockholm School of Economics on May 27, 2016. The event was organized jointly by the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and was the sixth installment of SITE Development Day – a yearly development policy conference.

A region at a crossroads?

25 years have passed since the countries of the former Soviet Union embarked on a historic transition from communism to market economy and democracy. While all transition countries went through a turbulent initial period of high inflation and large output declines, the depth and length of these recessions varied widely across the region and have resulted in income differences that remain until today. Some explanations behind these varied results include initial conditions, external factors and geographic location, but also the speed and extent to which reforms were implemented early on were critical to outcomes. Countries that took on a rapid and bold reform process were rewarded with a faster recovery and income convergence, whereas countries that postponed reforms ended up with a much longer and deeper initial recession and have seen very little income convergence with Western Europe.

The prospect of EU membership is another factor that proved to be a powerful catalyst for reform and upgrading of institutional frameworks. The 10 countries that joined the EU are today, on average, performing better than the non-EU transition countries in basically any indicator of development including GDP per capita, life expectancy, political rights and civil liberties. Even if some of the non-EU countries initially had the political will to reform and started off on an ambitious transition path, the momentum was eventually lost. In Russia, the increasing oil prices of the 2000s brought enormous government revenues that enabled the country to grow without implementing further market reforms, and have effectively led to a situation of no political competition. Ukraine, on the other hand, has changed government 17 times in the past 25 years, and even if the parliament appears to be functioning, very few of the passed laws and suggested reforms have actually been implemented.

Evidently, economic transition takes time and was harder than many initially expected. In some areas of reform, such as liberalization of prices, trade and the exchange rate, progress could be achieved relatively fast. However, in other crucial areas of reform and institution building progress has been slower and more diverse. Private sector development is perhaps the area where the transition countries differ the most. Large-scale privatization remains to be completed in many countries in the CIS. In Belarus, even small-scale privatization has been slow. For the transition countries that were early with large-scale privatization, the current challenges of private sector development are different: As production moves closer to the world technology frontier, competition intensifies and innovation and human capital development become key to survival. These transformational pressures require strong institutions, and a business environment that rewards education and risk taking. It becomes even more important that financial sectors are functioning, that the education system delivers, property rights are protected, regulations are predictable and moderated, and that corruption and crime are under control. While the scale of these challenges differ widely across the region, the need for institutional reforms that reduce inefficiencies and increase returns on private investments and savings, are shared by many.

To increase economic growth and to converge towards Western Europe, the key challenges are to both increase productivity and factor input into production. This involves raising the employment rate, achieving higher labor productivity, and increasing the capital stock per capita. The region’s changing demography, due to lower fertility rates and rebounding life expectancy rates, will increase already high pressures on pension systems, healthcare spending and social assistance. Moreover, the capital stock per capita in a typical transition country is only about a third of that in Western Europe, with particularly wide gaps in terms of investment in infrastructure.

Unlocking human potential: gender in the region

Regardless of how well a country does on average, it also matters how these achievements are distributed among the population. A relatively underexplored aspect of transition is to which extent it has affected men and women differentially. Given the socialist system’s provision of universal access to education and healthcare, and great emphasis on labor market participation for both women and men, these countries rank fairly well in gender inequality indices compared to countries at similar levels of GDP outside the region when the transition process started. Nonetheless, these societies were and have remained predominantly patriarchal. During the last 25 years, most of these countries have only seen a small reduction in the gender wage gap, some even an increase. Several countries have seen increased gender segregation on the labor market, and have implemented “protective” laws that in reality are discriminatory as they for example prohibit women from working in certain occupations, or indirectly lock out mothers from the labor market.

Furthermore, many of the obstacles experienced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more severe for women than for men. Female entrepreneurs in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries have less access to external financing, business training and affordable and qualified business support than their male counterparts. While the free trade agreements, DCFTAs, between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, respectively, have the potential to bring long-term benefits especially for women, these will only be realized if the DCFTAs are fully implemented and gender inequalities are simultaneously addressed. Women constitute a large percentage of the employees in the areas that are the most likely to benefit from the DCFTAs, but stand the risk of being held back by societal attitudes and gender stereotypes. In order to better evaluate and study how these issues develop, gendered-segregated data need to be made available to academics, professionals and the general public.

Conclusion

Looking back 25 years, given the stakes involved, things could have gotten much worse. Even so, for the CIS countries progress has been uneven and disappointing and many of the countries are still struggling with the same challenges they faced in the 1990’s: weak institutions, slow productivity growth, corruption and state capture. Meanwhile, the current migration situation in Europe has revealed that even the institutional development towards democracy, free press and judicial independence in several of the CEEC countries cannot be taken for granted. The transition process is thus far from complete, and the lessons from the economics of transition literature are still highly relevant.

Participants at the conference

  • Irina Alkhovka, Gender Perspectives.
  • Bas Bakker, IMF.
  • Torbjörn Becker, SITE.
  • Erik Berglöf, Institute of Global Affairs, LSE.
  • Kateryna Bornukova, Belarusian Research and Outreach Center.
  • Anne Boschini, Stockholm University.
  • Irina Denisova, New Economic School.
  • Stefan Gullgren, Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • Elsa Håstad, Sida.
  • Eric Livny, International School of Economics.
  • Michal Myck, Centre for Economic Analysis.
  • Tymofiy Mylovanov, Kyiv School of Economics.
  • Olena Nizalova, University of Kent.
  • Heinz Sjögren, Swedish Chamber of Commerce for Russia and CIS.
  • Andrea Spear, Independent consultant.
  • Oscar Stenström, Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • Natalya Volchkova, Centre for Economic and Financial Research.

 

Does Gender Matter for the Innovativeness of SMEs?

This policy brief summarizes the results of an on-going research project on the gender aspect of companies’ innovativeness in transition countries. The aim of this work is to examine whether there is a gender gap in innovative behavior within the sector of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The results suggest that the propensity to innovate is higher among companies with a presence of a female owner.   This finding preserves for 5 measures of innovativeness. Thus, female involvement in business might be beneficial for the innovative sustainable development of economy.

The role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has increased lately and they are considered one of the main engines of economic growth (Radas and Bosic, 2009). Research on transition economies and development has emphasized the need for strong a SME sector, since it often acts as the backbone of the economy (Lukasc, 2005) and is the largest contributor of employment (Omar et al., 2009). Another important channel through which the SME sector contributes to development is through their innovative activities. Sustainable economic development requires competitive and successful industries. Being innovative is one way to achieve this goal. However, the innovativeness of sectors and industries depends not only on the actions of the largest companies, but also on the SME sector and individual entrepreneurs. Indeed, the latter are often argued to be more dynamic and more ambitious (Chalmers, 1989; Li and Rama, 2015).

The decision to follow an innovative strategy often depends on the company’s leader, their experience and other managerial characteristics. However, the experience of the leader is not the only factor affecting managerial actions – gender also appears to matter (Daunfeldt and Rudholm, 2012). In the absence of clear answers and knowledge about female managerial characteristics, including their innovativeness (Alsos et al., 2013), it is difficult to evaluate their role in modernizing the business society and to distinguish their competitive advantages or disadvantages over male managers and business owners.

The role becomes even more ambiguous for the transition, post-communist economies. The labor market under USSR officially provided equal rights to women. However, in practice women were treated differently than men. While women often had to do the same work as men, the patriarchal society remained with men being regarded as the main decision makers, and women being fully responsible for housework and childcare. This can explain the low presence of women in top-managerial positions and women’s weaker business ties and networks (Welter et al., 2004).

The question of gender and innovation in entrepreneurship has recently starting to attract attention. Earlier, innovativeness was strongly connected and associated with high-tech companies. Thus, innovation research mostly focused on technology-based and capital-intensive industries (Dauzenberg, 2012; Marlow and McAdam, 2012). As a result, innovation behavior in less capital-intensive SMEs was almost entirely overlooked. This can also explain the lack of focus on gender, as men usually dominated the capital-intensive industries (Ljunggren et al., 2010).  In an ongoing research project, I am trying to expand the understanding of gender differences in innovation and SME entrepreneurship with a focus on transition economies and the CIS block in particular.

The idea is to estimate owners’ and CEOs propensity to implement innovations in the organization. The specification of the model follows the literature and uses a probit technique that allows for an estimation of these propensities while taking into account other influencing factors and individual characteristics of firms, their owners and CEOs, which likely affect innovative decisions. The data I use come from the 5th wave of the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS) conducted in 2012-2013. The final dataset covered 5254 SMEs from 30 European and East Asia countries.

The main variable of interest is the innovativeness of the enterprise, proxied by 5 different indicators. The measures of implemented innovative activities are: 1) whether the firms introduced a new product or service during the last 3 years; 2) whether there was any new production process implemented; 3) whether there were any spending on research and development; 4) whether were was an introduction of a new marketing strategy and method; and 5) whether an enterprise implemented new methods in operational management. The usage of 5 indicators instead of one allows me to see whether there is any specific feature of innovativeness that differs by gender.

The list of control variables covers information on the gender of the CEO and owners, number of years of experience of the CEO, age of the firm, type of ownership, focus on internal and external markets, as well as the usage of foreign technologies and certification. I also have information on the share of skilled labor force, the share of females in the organization, and whether the organization bears additional costs on external consulting services and training of employees. Information on industry, country, size of the organization and type of residence is also available.

Unfortunately, the data lacks information on the number of owners, which will prohibit me from estimating the clear gender effects and limits the analysis to the effect of gender diversity among owners.

The obtained results (see Table 1) show that having a female as the only, or one of the, owner(s) increases the propensity of going into uncertainty and implementation of a new good/service by 4.5% in the CIS region and 6.7% in the non-CIS block. However, the effect of having a female CEO is insignificant. This finding contradicts the literature on gender differences in the willingness to take on risk (Wagner, 2001; He et al., 2007; Eckel et al., 2008; Croson and Gneezy, 2009) that mostly demonstrates that women, on average, are more risk-averse than men.

A similar effect is observed for the implementation of a new business process or marketing strategy. The only insignificant difference is the spending on R&D in CIS countries and new managerial methods in non-CIS block. However, these measures of innovativeness raise doubts regarding its applicability for SME sector. A shift from high-intense productions towards services makes it less useful to spend enormous sums of money on technological research. Instead, other innovative actions like the development of human capital are of greater importance.

Table 1. Propensity to innovate

Akulava_tab1Source: Author’s own estimation.

Conclusion

The results show that having a female owner or gender diversity in the ownership structure positively affects the propensity of the organization to follow innovative behaviors and strategies. Therefore, promoting female entrepreneurship and gender equality in ownership seem positive for increasing the innovativeness of companies, and the economy in general, in both the CIS and non-CIS block.

References

  • Alsos, G.A., Hytti, U., and Ljunggren, E. 2013.Gender and Innovation: State of the Art and a Research Agenda.International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 5(3):236-256.
  • Chalmers, N. 1989. Industrial Relations in Japan: The Peripheral Workforce. London: Routledge.
  • Croson, R. and Gneezy, U. 2009. “Gender Differences in Preferences”.Journal of Economic Literature.Volume 47, #2.
  • Daunfeldt, S., O., and Rudholm, N., (2012). Does gender diversity in the boardroom improve firm performance? Department of Economics, Dalarna University, SE-781 88 Borlänge, Sweden; and HUI Research, SE-103 29 Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Dautzenberg, K. 2012. Gender differences of business owners in technology-based firms.International Journal of Gender & Entrepreneurship,4:79–98.
  • Eckel, C. and Grossman, P. 2008. “Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence”. Handbook of Experimental Economic Results.Elsevier.Volume 1, #7.
  • He, X., Inman, J.J. and Mittal, V. (2007), “Gender jeopardy in financial risk taking”, Journal of Marketing Research, 44: 414-24.
  • Li, Y., and Rama, M. 2015. Firm Dynamics, Productivity Growth, and Job Creation in Developing Countries: The Role of Micro- and Small Enterprises. The World Bank Research Observer, 30: 3-38.
  • Ljundggren, E., Alsos, G.A., Amble, N., Ervik, R., Kvidal, T., Wiik, R. 2010. Gender and innovation: Learning from regional VRI projects. Nordland Research Institute, Norway.
  • Lukacs, E. 2005. The economic role of SMEs in world economy, especially in Europe. European Integration Studies, 4(1): 3-12.
  • McAdam, M. and Marlow, S. 2008.The Business Incubator and the Female High-Technology Entrepreneur: A Perfect Match? Paper presented at the 2008 International Council for Small Business World Confrence, recipient of the 2008 Best Paper Award for Women Entrepreneurship.
  • Omar, S. S., Arokiasamy, L., & Ismail, M. 2009. The background and challenges faced by the small and medium enterprises. A human resources development perspectives. International Journal of Business and Management, 4(10): 95-102.
  • Radas, S., and Božić, Lj. 2009.The Antecedents of SME Innovativeness in an Emerging Transition Economy. Technovation, 29: 438-450.
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Gender and Development: the Role of Female Leadership

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This policy brief reports on a discussion of the role of female leadership in development held during a full day conference at the Stockholm School of Economics on June 16, 2014. The event was organized jointly by the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and was the fourth installment of Development Day – a yearly development policy conference. It is well known that women fall behind men on many markers of welfare and life opportunities, both in developed and developing countries. For most indicators, though, such as education and labor force participation, both the absolute and relative position of women tend to improve with economic development. However, in some areas the beneficiary effect of raising incomes is less clear. Access to leadership positions and decision-making roles are examples of such areas. To discuss this question, the conference brought together a distinguished and experienced group of policy oriented scholars and practitioners from government agencies, international organizations, civil society and the business community.