The situation of women in the countries of post-communism transition

Doc. 9997 rev.
9 June 2004

Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Rapporteuse:  Mrs Magdolna K�s�-Kov�cs, Hungary, Socialist Group

For debate in the Standing Committee — see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure


In the countries of post-communism transition there are many similarities in the situation of women, despite the fact that these countries have different historical, economic and religious backgrounds and that their totalitarian regimes were also radically different.

The states of the so-called socialist (communist) systems, using their political and social power and propaganda, managed to cover up the depths of the inequalities in gendered opportunities. So, after the transformation, the illusion still remained that equal opportunities for women had already been established. At the same time, society was not prepared for the dramatic changes that occurred in the differences of opportunities (according to age, region, education, etc.)

During the transformation of the economy, women fell out of the labour market in great numbers to find themselves in the household, which did not provide any income for them, or in early retirement. Women's political representation radically decreased, compared to the "statist feminist" era, when their representation was regulated by quota. In the last decade, however, their proportion has increased again, especially at local levels. Non-profit organisations, representing the interests of women, were not strong enough to break through the political walls and realise their interests and programmes in political life, or to give voice to their values in public discourse, despite their strong activities in certain countries.

Therefore, the Parliamentary Assembly recommends to the governments of Central and Eastern Europe a number of measures aimed at improving legal norms on gender equality, the economic status of women in society, as well as their health and social protection. It considers as a priority the introduction of special mechanisms to ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed in all social and political policies of these countries. It also recommends that the Committee of Ministers continue to develop technical assistance programmes in support of regional and national programmes, initiated by governments and non-governmental organisations of these countries on main gender equality issues.

I.          Draft recommendation

1.                  The Parliamentary Assembly is concerned that the situation of women in most countries of Eastern and Central Europe has deteriorated since the collapse of communism. In fact, the current situation of women in these countries is characterised by rising inequalities and a lack of government action aimed at fighting this trend.

2.                  The introduction of the market economy, technological progress and the loss of social institutions has created many difficulties for women, particularly growing unemployment, low revenues, economic insecurity and reductions in childcare facilities. Discrimination of women in the workplace is not rare, with most women working in low-paid sectors (with a concomitantly low social status), such as in the health and social service sector, and earning on average only 70-90% of men’s wages.

3.                  The Assembly deplores that violence against women, especially domestic violence and trafficking in women, has become one of the most appalling problems in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Many governments continue to neglect this problem and do not treat it seriously enough. While the law recognises that women have the right to live free from violence, in reality, women’s human rights are frequently not adequately protected during the legal process.

4.                  Women’s participation in public and political life has also suffered. Women are seriously under-represented in political life and in decision-making positions. The adoption of equal gender status laws does not automatically guarantee the actual participation of women in decision-making. The rejection of the quota system within the changed political situation and the lack of affirmative action regarding the balanced representation of women and men in elections resulted in a significant decrease of women’s representation in national parliaments.

5.                  Nevertheless, women have been active in the broadening of democracy and the market economy through civil society activities and small business development. This experience underscores the need for transitional policies to take into account issues of gender to ensure a broad societal base for democratic reform. The number of women’s organisations is increasing rapidly and women are becoming more engaged at all levels in defining and defending their interests in society.

6.                  The Assembly is concerned by the low level of awareness of rights related to equal opportunities and gender equality in the countries of post-communism transition and recognises the importance of the introduction of special mechanisms to ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed in all social and political policies of these countries.

7.                  For achieving progress in gender equality in the countries of post-communism transition it is necessary to muster sufficient political will, to focus more attention on gender-mainstreaming issues and to allocate the necessary resources. It is very important that governments and local authorities ensure that the outcome of the process of democratisation of the society will provide women with the benefits that they were denied during the previous period. First of all, the conditions should be created to provide women with access to significant positions of authority.

8.         The Assembly underlines the necessity to integrate gender equality in the day-to-day life of the countries of post-communist transition. People should be equipped not only with gender knowledge but also with practical tools on how to use this knowledge. It also seems vital to give examples of positive changes in society which have already occurred or will occur as the result of gender equality being established.

9.         The Assembly thus recommends that the Committee of Ministers calls on the governments of Central and Eastern European member states to:

A.                 Institutional measures

i. create or strengthen legally mandated and durable national machineries (preferably at ministerial level) based on highest level legislation (preferably constitutional) for gender mainstreaming governmental policies, endowed with their own budgets;

ii. develop and apply indices for gender mainstreaming;

iii. establish or develop a monitoring system, which analyses the implementation of national legislation and makes suggestions with regard to the realisation of gender equality;

iv. create NGO councils to work with governments on gender-advancement policy;

v. set up a Parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, if they have not done so already;

vi. ensure regular funding for gender-advancement programmes and policies and national gender equality mechanisms from the annual governmental budget;

vii. accord necessary budgeting to health care, social care and education sectors;

viii. encourage political parties to review their internal systems and regulations in order to remove obstacles preventing women from participating on an equal footing with men, as well as adopt transparent selection criteria and special measures to promote women within the parties; special attention in this framework should be paid to the choice of electoral system per se;

ix. pay more attention to gender-disaggregated data and information and research on the situation of women;

x. work equality aspects into the educational curriculum at all levels;

B.         Legal measures

i. review national legislation in order to eliminate legislative gaps that leave women and girls without protection of their rights and create a gender-sensitive legal environment;

ii. pay extra attention to the means and legal regulations of preventing and punishing domestic violence as criminal acts;

iii. consider making harassment at the workplace a criminal offence;

iv. review legislation in general (also the Constitution) with a view to removing barriers and introducing affirmative action;

C.         Measures for the improvement of the economic status of women

i. create employment possibilities for women which take into account women’s particular situation and provide equal employment access for women and men;

ii. guarantee equal pay for equal value of work for women and men and prohibit discrimination of women in the workplace;

iii. monitor poverty according to gender in order to find out which social groups have the largest concentration of poverty and develop special programmes to alleviate the problems of such groups; 

iv. acknowledge the importance of lifelong learning, organise training for women, with due consideration to differences in their age and social and economic situations;

v. develop micro-credit projects with a specific focus on women’s self-reliance as a key to people-centred, sustainable development;

D.         Measures for the improvement of women’s social protection and health

i. seek possibilities for the social acknowledgement of "unpaid women's work" (e.g. the inclusion of time periods doing educational work or providing care when calculating a woman's pension);

ii. increase the number of child-care facilities in general, and provide free child-care services for low-income families;

iii. review the health care-system in order to provide full access to health-care services for women in all phases of their life;

iv. create a network of family-planning centres and reproductive rights services as a part of the health-care system;

v. ensure proper care specially adapted to the needs of elderly women.

10.        The Assembly also recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i. assist the Central and Eastern European governments in developing an integrated programme on gender mainstreaming;

ii. develop technical assistance programmes in support of regional and national programmes initiated by governments and NGOs on main gender issues such as equal participation of women in the decision-making process, the fight against trafficking in women and violence against women;

iii. promote the introduction and popularisation of the "best practices" of the countries in transition.

Table of contents

I.          Introduction

A.         The concept of transition

B.         The consequences of the "statist feminist" era on gender equality

II.         Women’s participation in public life and decision-making

A.         Political participation of women

B.         Reasons for the decrease in women's political activity

C.         Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women

III.        The effect of transformation in the labour market on women

A.         Employment

B.         Unemployment

C.         The improving qualitative composition of employed women

D.         Gender pay gap

E.         Factors that determine women's employment

IV.        Reproductive rights

A.         Access to Contraceptives

B.         Abortion Laws in CEE/NIS Region

C.         Further Reproductive Rights Issues

V.         Violence against women

A.         The different forms of violence against women

VI.        Women's health

A.         Characteristics of women's health

B.         The characteristics of women's physical health

VII.       Social care: family planning, the elderly

A.         Social expenditures

B.         Provisions for supporting families

C.         Pensions

VIII.      Conclusions

IX.        Tables

X.         Bibliography

I.          Introduction 

1.                  In the countries of transition it was the official political policy to emancipate women and guarantee equal rights for them. Without a genuine commitment, however, the problems in the formal women’s equality from above became apparent after the collapse of the previous system. The protection of human rights and gender equality have been confirmed on a constitutional basis in the countries of the region, but the transition had a negative impact on the enforcement of women's rights in a number of ways.

2.                  It was in the middle of the 1990's that women's rights and gender equality were once again placed on the agendas of the governments, as a result of the 4th World Conference on Women, held in Beijing.

3.                  A common feature of transition countries concerning women's rights is a lack of awareness of their rights and a particularly low degree of law enforcement. The discriminative effect of secondary legislation often blocks the legislative intentions for equal rights embodied in primary legislation. The institutional framework supporting and serving the enforcement and exerce of women's rights is weak and under-subsidised, and there is also a lack of political will to strengthen it.

4.                  Despite the current legislative prohibitions and legal guarantees, discrimination in the labour market is one of the most widespread phenomena that constitute a violation ofwomen's rights. Also, the lack of appropriate legal regulations and institutional guarantees often makes it impossible to take violators of the law to account and to make proper use of legal remedies, thereby limiting the enforcement of women’s rights.

5.                  Regarding the violation of women's rights, the most common criticism against countries in the region concerns trafficking in women, prostitution and violence against women.

6.                  All the countries in the region have ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Optional Protocol to CEDAW has also been ratified by many states in the region.     

7.                  In the countries of transition the governments do not pay sufficient attention to the inequalities between the sexes. Research proves that inequalities have increased rather than decreased in the region. The representation of women in politics and their participation in the labour market seem to decline, while the forms of violence against them increase. Their physical and mental health is deteriorating. As would-be members of the European Union, certain countries in the region might be able to exert stronger pressure for gender equality to develop. Therefore there is a need to analyse the situation and formulate recommendations.

A.         The concept of transition 

8.                  The concept of transition is applied to describe the transition from state socialism to a political system of democracy. Concerning the changing situation of women, the following factors are significant here.

9.                  The political procedures after 1989 might be described as a "masculinasation” in Central Eastern Europe and in the NIS. Under “masculinasation” we understand a forced transition to a market economy, where money and consumption are the sole values. The newly formed economic and political power appears as exclusively masculine, being primarily and exclusively related to men.  

10.               With the democratisation of politics, the international organisations emerging in national politics mainly support those feminist projects that focus on issues related to the domestic roles of women, such as violence within the family or rape. The financial support provided by the international organisations to strengthen individual rights is meagre, while feminist movements in the region are either invisible or just one among the many and various feminist movements.

B.         The consequences of the "statist feminist" era on gender equality

11.               In the  "statist feminist" era, gender equality appeared on three levels. The first one was the official ideology, which, on the basis of the constitution written after the Soviet model, declared that equal opportunities between the sexes have been achieved. In the framework of this system, a network of nurseries, kindergartens and day-care institutions was established, which aimed at safeguarding women's equality that had been achieved by women entering the labour market. The forced emancipation introduced a quota, determining, e.g. the minimum number of women in women's political representation and in the political committees. In this framework and antidemocratic system no critique or research into the fictitious nature of equality, or of the glass-ceiling was tolerated.

12.               There was only one public sphere where the transformation of sexual differences into social differences was frequently and publicly discussed, the issue of the "double burden" of women. Women became a disadvantaged (problematic) group in society, as they had to perform both at home and at work. Although official politics, in different waves, urged men to take on more domestic duties, this was hardly effective. The era of "statist feminism" in this interpretation did not fulfil its promise to bring about women's equality. Under their double burden, women suffered from unchangeable forms of masculine hegemony. The power relations did not effect any significant change in their individual and family lives.

13.               The second level, the level of private life, was not even touched upon by the so-called radical principles of the traditional, communist egalitarian politics (free sexuality, abolition of the family, etc.). Therefore, during the "statist feminist" era there was a symbiotic co-existence of a radically modern legislation aiming at social equality of opportunities and of a deeply sexist practice in the private realm.

14.               The third level was the official ideology of genders. According to this, women became equal with men,  in a sense they became men. This equality was realised at the workplace, which connected the official and the private spheres. Given that almost every woman worked in the era of "statist feminism", women tried to work out their own survival strategies through economic independence and through building up their individual social networks. Due to these strategies, the fact that women were unable to break through the "glass-ceiling" of both the economic and the political sphere, seemed to be the result of individual decisions and choices. Consequently, there was no need to face the unchanged system of masculine hegemony and to formulate its critique. Women, cleverly manoeuvring between the two spheres with irreconcilable values often created emancipated operational strategies of their own, but this successful practice was not accompanied by the formulation of a singular political language.

15.               The uncertainties about the social role of women and the misunderstandings can be attributed to the heritage of the "statist feminist" era and the masculinasation connected to the transition, as well as to the policies of international organisations (international NGO-s and donors).

II.         Women’s participation in public life and decision-making

16.               During the period of the “statist feminist” era political structures remained male-dominated and decision-making power was not shared by women. Women’s presence in parliaments was assured through quota systems and only a small number of women were represented at the highest political levels.

17.               Although women were represented in parliaments, their election was predetermined by quotas and was perceived as an obligation, imposed from above to symbolize the achievement of equality. Therefore, many women in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe see participation in political life as a ”dirty” business and chose to withdraw completely from the public sphere and focus on family life.

A.         Political participation of women

18.               After 1989, the selective political system transformed into an "elective" one. In the case of “elective” political representation, the lobbying and controlling function of civil organisations inevitably decreases and gains significance only when a political crisis takes place. So the civil organisations would have lost some of their lobbying power, even if they had had more of it earlier on.  The party framework became predominant, and in this framework it was futile to expect a development of civil movements. After 1989 the only lobbies, apart from the party framework, were the different churches. The representation and definition of women's interest were determined by the political debates in  parliament. Due to the dominant and redistributive roles of party headquarters, women rarely appear in the top parts of party lists. 

19.               A study of UNIFEM has singled out Eastern Europe as the region which has suffered the most dramatic decreases of women’s seats in parliament, which is linked to the deterioration of economic conditions and the dismantling of quota systems. The proportion of women in parliament is around 10% (see Table 1.)

20.               The level of women’s participation in national legislatures fell precipitously when democratic elections were held, ranging from 20-30 percent in 1987 to less than 10 percent in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary in 1990. It can be explained by the fact that during the Communist period, legislators did not represent constituencies, as it is the case in functioning democracies, but were used by the leadership to legitimate its policies and to promote support for decisions made at the top. In reality, women were marginalized from the canters of power.  

21.               Recent elections have shown that women accounted for 17 percent of the legislators in the Czech Republic, 19% in Slovakia, 9,80% in Hungary, 20% in Poland and 26.60 % in Bulgaria. This representation in Central and Eastern Europe legislatures is significantly lower than the proportion of women in the Nordic countries’ legislatures, which ranged from 30 percent to 45 percent in 2003.

22.               The situation with women’s representation in parliaments in Eastern Europe is even more regrettable.For example, in Russia after the removal of quotas the number of women parliamentarians fell from 34,5% in 1984 to 7% in 2003. In Lithuania, women’s percentage in parliament dropped from 30% under communism to 10 % in the present parliament. In Armenia and Ukraine women represent only 5% of members in the national parliaments.

23.                 The electoral systems of Central and Eastern Europe are not discriminatory to women. The reasons for the small number of women in Parliament can be found elsewhere: in large number of political parties existing in those countries, unstable party systems, relatively large numbers of parliamentary parties, which are all dominated by men. The political parties are responsible for the participation of women and their election as MPs far more than the type of electoral system.

24.               The parties are adopting an increasingly pragmatic attitude toward their women members. Influenced by European standards, at the start of the election campaign they embark upon a search for "capable" women. Almost always at that point they fail to find enough of such women and are "forced" to fill their places with men. Between the elections, the definition of party politics and of the political agenda remains men's work.

25.               Significant alienation of women from the decision-making positions is a sort of political violence, reaffirmation of a masculine system of governance and thinking. Political socialisation of women, as well as men, during the transition period to democracy based on the rule of law should lead to the development of the gender democracy, which means the defeat of the patriarchal forms of political socialization.

26.               Nevertheless, women have been active in the broadening of democracy and the market through civil society activities and small business development. This experience underscores the need for transitional policies to take into account issues of gender to ensure a broad societal base for democratic reform. The number of women’s organisations is increasing rapidly, and women are becoming more engaged at all levels in defining and defending their interests in society.

27.               Political participation increases quite sharply among women with higher education and it is very important factor for post-communist societies, where political participation is no longer motivated by the need to demonstrate party loyalty or advance one’s career but by the desire to influence government decision.

28.               In the countries of East-Central Europe: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, women with higher education show equal interest in politics, while in the Baltic States and the CIS countries, less than half of the women with higher education, in comparison with their male counterparts are very interested in politics.  

29.               Although there may be far fewer women in politics now that government quota systems guaranteeing them a certain percentage of official positions have been eliminated, strong female leaders are emerging. For example, In Latvia,  Vaira Viie-Freiberga is a President of the Republic, in Ukraine, Yulia Timoshenko is a leader of the opposition, in Georgia, Nino Burjanadze is a Chairperson of the Parliament, in Russia Valentina Matvienko is a Vice -Prime Minister of Russian Federation.

30.               The main reason for the non-participation of women in politics lies in the general indifference that women display for political parties, poor identification with any one political party, a disinclination to adopt beliefs and attitudes of any party, aversion towards party discipline and a lack of interest in politics.  

31.               There is absolutely no solidarity among women - those that have succeeded in politics consider themselves privileged and show no desire to help other women to achieve the same success. Such an attitude will probably change, but through the political activities of future generations.

32.               More involvement of women in political life should be encouraged by political parties, which should be disciplined and well-organised in order to make collective decisions to include women in their leadership and to establish specific quotas for them. Proportional representation, public financing of parties and electoral campaigns, and part-systems without preferential voting seem to respond women’s interests in political sphere.

B.         Reasons for the decrease in women's political activity 

33.               In the transition countries, there are historic-religious reasons for women's low political mobilisation. In public life, there is no political language that allows women to actively participate in politics. One possible reason for the low participation of women in politics is the continuity of religious traditions. Women who are active and successful in politics are considered as exceptions and are constantly obliged to prove that they are excellent mothers besides being politicians. The persistence of traditional, hierarchic and supplementary gender roles are confirmed and legitimised by religious patterns.

34.               According to the second argument, the feminist movement is reduced to a movement fighting for progressive, liberal rights. After 1989, the international feminist movement considered it crucial for the assessment of political and human rights whether or not there was a feminist movement in a particular country. This approach neglected the fact that feminist movements in this region had historically never been significant political forces in themselves. By questioning the legitimisation basis and significance of other types of feminist movements, it deprived the feminist movement of its rich heritage, failing to replace it with something else and creating expectations that were impossible to meet.

35.               The third argument explains the low level of women’s participation on the basis of the newly established party structure. The political parties emerging after 1989 were usually formed from male friendly circles, and women moved awkwardly in this sphere strongly permeated by gender divisions. At the same time, party groupings are based on competition, so women start here as well as in all competitive fields a step behind, on account of their real or alleged family responsibilities. Getting in the political elite was mainly a question of network capital. And although it is one of the basic illusions of feminist literature that women are better at helping each other in the background, this has not been justified in political practice. The monolithic historiography of the political system that brought into force the statist feminism successfully abolished from historical memory the rich political traditions of women and examples of their solidarity.

36.               The fourth approach explains the low participation of women in politics by the general weakness of the civil sphere. They diagnose the democratic deficit in the countries of the region, based on the fact that the statist feminist era destroyed the rich network of women associations, as a result of which women politicians are unable to represent the interests of women, or even to define these interests. Institutional discontinuity went hand in hand with personal discontinuity, in contrast to Western-European civil movements, where changes in the organisational framework have not affected personal continuity and political models of women have always remained present. The new group of women politicians experienced socialisation in the statist feminist era, in a political movement that was centralised, bureaucratic and conformist. Women who are newcomers in politics struggle for recognition, being the first ones in a profession that demands personal sacrifices as well.

37.               Nevertheless, over the last decade many women’s organisations have appeared in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 1989, over 300 women’s organisations have been developed in Poland though they still have limited influence on state policy. In Slovakia, more than 70 organisations were formed after 1989. Those organisations focus their activities on women’s most immediate needs such as family, education, social activities. Few women’s organisations have directly engaged in politics or attempted to increase the political participation of women.

38.               The experience of women’s movements has shown that women are much more active at the local level, where the outcomes are more dependent on personal exchanges, detailed information about needs and solidarities. Therefore, women seem to have a major interest in political decentralisation, especially in obtaining the maximum possible degree of autonomy for municipalities. Having received responsible positions at the local level, they will be more likely to penetrate later at the highest level of governmental authorities later.

39.               In the countries of post-communism transition, there are numerous new women’s organisations working for the raising of the status of women. Thanks to the activities of women and the considerable influence of women’s movements (albeit not yet fully mature politically or influential enough) new mechanisms for the strengthening of gender equality are being created.

C.         Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women

40.               It should be pointed out that legislation and some elements of national mechanisms on gender equality have been set up in the majority of the countries of post-communism transition.  The creation of the basic elements of national machinery on the promotion of equality was a result of the pressure by women’s non-governmental organisations and some left-oriented parties; as well as of the necessity to implement the recommendations of the Beijing Conference on Women and the preparation of the accession to the European Union, linked with the adoption of its regulations.

41.               Equality is, in general guaranteed by the constitutions and some laws of these countries.  But these laws are of a mainly protective character and related to employment and the family. Until recently, no special anti-discriminatory laws existed.

42.               Practically in all countries of post-communism transition the institutions dealing with women’s issues were established under the government or the President’s office, or within the Parliament. The majority of these institutions are dealing also with family policies.In Hungary, a State Secretariat of Equal Opportunities has been established in 2002 in the framework of Ministry of Labour, which  was also responsible for the issues of disabled and Roma people. In 2003 the Secretariat of Equal Opportunity was transformed to the Ministry of Equal Opportunity. The Hungarian Parliament is also going to pass a law on “Equal Treatment and Equal Opportunity” in 2003.

43.               Slovenia was the first former socialist country to set up a national mechanism for women’s advancement; it was created as a result of pressure from women’s groups. Since then, however, not much has happened to change the relative power of women in government and society or to change traditional male-dominated attitudes.

44.               In such countries as Poland, Slovenia and Ukraine the Ombudspersons are dealing not only with general human rights violation cases, but with gender-based discrimination as well. 

45.               Existing national mechanisms are vulnerable to political changes. Changes of government mean lack of continuity, including elimination of national machinery, lowering its status or mandate, and changing its staff. To illustrate this tendency the example of the evolution of the national mechanism on equality in Poland can be taken. A Governmental Plenipotentiary for Women, an office within the structure of the Ministry of Labour and Welfare was active between 1986 and 1989; closed at that time, it was reactivated in April 1991 as the office of Governmental Plenipotentiary for Women and Family (moved to the administrative structure of the Board of Ministers’ office) where it lasted until February 1992; reactivated again in December 1994 and functional until November 1997, it was closed down by the Government at that time; in its place a Governmental Plenipotentiary for the Family was established.

46.               In Lithuania, in order to guarantee the enforcement of the Law on Equal Opportunities, the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson’s office was established in 1999 as an independent state institution, accountable to the Parliament. Each natural and legal person has the right to file a complaint with the office about infringements of the above law.

47.               In general, existing institutional mechanism are rather weak and do not enable special measures to be introduced to increase participation of women in politics. In the majority of states there is no consistent governmental policy of equal opportunities and inter-ministerial co-ordination on equality policy. There are no mechanisms controlling the implementation of the statutory equality except the offices of ombudsmen in some countries and a few non-governmental initiatives.

48.               To strengthen and make more effective the work of institutional mechanisms a gender equality perspective should be incorporated in all governmental policies at all levels and at all stages of decision-making. Top governmental leadership, including the Head of the Government and its ministers should demonstrate a commitment to gender equality and gender-aware policy-analysis to enable the successful implementation of this gender mainstreaming process.

49.               The allocation by the Governments of sufficient financial resources for the implementation of gender mainstreaming policies is also essential; and such resources should come from regular budgets.

III.        The effect of transformation in the labour market on women

50.               The participation of women in the labour market is significant for several reasons. First, this is the source of women's economic autonomy, the precondition of access to social security, pension and health care allowances. And it also gives a chance for social and personal development.

A.         Employment

51.               During socialism, women's participation in the labour market in Central Eastern Europe was exceptionally high in international comparison. Women's employment reached its maximum both in social and in demographic dimensions. Today this is no longer the case.

52.               Before the collapse of the previous system, there was no open unemployment inthe countries of post-communism transition. In the first half of the 1990's, GDP dropped by 15-25% in the Central Eastern countries, by 35-45 % in South Eastern Europe, and by about 50% or more in the Baltic states, in the Western part of the NIS countries and in Central Asia. Consequently, altogether 26 million jobs were lost, which is 13% of the total number of workplaces before the changing of the system. Out of these jobs there were 14 million that had been filled by women.

53.               Nevertheless, gender differences in employment rates have not increased significantly. Although women's employment has decreased in many countries, the same thing has happened to men. It seems that women have retained their 40-50% employment rate, with regard to the formal economy. However, there are many jobs in the region that exist only formally, where even the lowest wages are often paid with a big delay. 

54.               Because of the low employment rate, social security burdens and taxes are high. At the same time the high costs of the labour force are the major obstacles of natural job creation, and they divert employment into the informal sector. Consequently there is a decline in the number of taxpayers and an increase in the number of people depending on social benefits.  Although part-time employment (which many women consider convenient) is becoming more common, 90% of employed women still work full-time.

B.         Unemployment

55.               The transition led to an unprecedental phenomenon in the region: millions of people who had had no personal experience of unemployment or of competition in the labour market lost their jobs. A fall in women's economic activity was predominant in both the younger and the older age brackets. The reason for the first is that finding employment is particularly difficult for young people, and the reason for the second is that many women choose early retirement to avoid being made redundant. It is only in the CzechRepublic and in Poland that women's unemployment is bigger than men's in all age groups. In the Baltic States and in Hungary women' s unemployment is constantly lower than men's.

56.               While women with secondary and higher education are still eager to retain their position in the labour market, women with three or more children try to make full use of maternity leave, which means a great career break for them. Hence they stand the risk of never being able to re-enter the labour market. Likewise, they might lose their eligibility to social security benefits and be unable to look after themselves in case of divorce.

57.               About one half of the unemployed can be considered permanently unemployed, meaning that at least one year has passed since they lost their jobs. In 2000, in most countries in the region there were more men than women permanently unemployed, discounting the CzechRepublic, Poland and Slovakia. Nevertheless, several surveys show that it is much more difficult for women to find a solution to the problem of permanent unemployment than it is for men. The main reason for that is that they have a greater responsibility in childcare than their partners. In Poland, unemployed men's chances to find work are not reduced by marriage, while being married is a great disadvantage for unemployed women. That can explain why young women postpone or reject the decision to start a family.

58.               The MONEE Project cites a Polish survey that examined the differences between genders with regard to unemployment and finding work. The interviewed -2076 persons, who were asked again a year later - were looking for work in November 1995. 51% of the interviewed were women. At the first interview, women had been seeking employment for an average of more than 16 months, while men for only 14. One year later, 40% of the men and only 25% of the women had found a job. A more detailed survey showed that the primary reason for gender differences in the ability to find work is the family status. Married men’s chances of finding work are twice as high as the chances of married women. One possible reason for that is that women have more duties related to bringing up a child. Therefore they are either unable to look for employment or their chances are lower at being hired. On the other hand, it can also be seen as a sign of discrimination on the part of the employers. (UNICEF, 1999., p. 29.)

59.               The women who are inhabitants of rural areas are in a particularly disadvantaged situation, both due to the dissolving of the state owned agricultural co-operatives, as well as the difficulties with the poor demand for privately produced products in the market.

C.         The improving qualitative composition of employed women

60.               The fall in employment has pushed out unqualified labour from the labour market, while the proportion of women with a college or university degree has grown among women who have been able to keep their jobs.

61.               Young women are obviously more qualified than older women. Nevertheless not all of them possess the necessary skills required for successful competition in the labour market. Knowing a foreign language and having PC skills are a must when looking for work in the "new" economy and could be one way of breaking away from employment segregation. To start a private business, one needs to possess marketing, accounting and business planning skills.

62.               There is empirical evidence that during the transition, the degree of gender employment segregation has decreased. But there is a risk that this phenomenon will be linked more and more to the type of proprietorship: women will be more likely to work in the public sector, while men will flow into the private sector. Women field 75% of the workforce in healthcare and education and these fields comprise a significant proportion of women's employment. 

63.               Gender is a significant factor determining chances of employment in the private sector, even without considering other factors. There are also fewer women among the self-employed and the entrepreneurs. However, one quarter of new enterprises are owned by women, which seems to be a promising start, considering that we are only at the beginning of the era of free enterprises.

D.         Gender pay gap

64.               Another positive sign is that gender pay gaps have not grown but remained unchanged (10-30%), despite the opening of the earnings scale in the 1990's. Gender pay gaps have seen the sharpest increase in Bulgaria, where reforms proceeded at a slow pace, but even there by only 5%. (see Table 2.) However, there are some countries, like the CzechRepublic, Hungary and Russia, where the gap has actually closed, which can be attributed to the high educational level of women in these countries.

E.         Factors that determine women's employment

65.               For families with small children, it is essential to provide a suitable, accessible and affordable childcare system, when considering the reconciliation between work and family responsibilities. The state’s measures in family politics, such as financial support and parental leave, seem to be effective in the sense that they encourage parents to stay at home with their children, however, the same measures have led to contradictory results with regard to gender equality.

66.               The memory of the forced participation in the labour market gave the illusion to many women that it was better for them to take up the role of full-time mothers and housewives. At the same time, there is great pressure on households to maintain and earn two incomes, forcing men and women to continue work or find employment. Unemployed women often end up being economically inactive, while men frequently find themselves in the "grey economy".

67.               Women's search for and chances of finding employment are usually restricted by family duties that fall on them because of the withdrawal of state institutions from the childcare system. Nurseries are less used in the whole of the region (in the case of children under 2 years old), especially in the Baltic States and in the NIS countries. In the Czech Republic and in Slovakia nurseries have been practically liquidated. In several countries, the number of places in nurseries has sharply declined.

68.               In certain countries, employers have been proven to be less keen on hiring women than men (see the Polish survey, cited above) and to restrict the usage of maternity and parental leave. So as an astonishing consequence of the transition, the number of children dropped by 10-15% in the region, which can be a temporary relief for families and communities in terms of economic and health care considerations, but can cause numerous economic and social problems in the long-run.

69.               There remains inequality in sharing household responsibilities and parenting duties between the parents. Women have a much greater share of these duties, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons for gender inequalities in employment and remuneration. The inequalities in the labour market accumulate and emerge even more strongly in social security provisions. 

IV.        Reproductive rights

70.               According to international documents and studies reproductive rights include all aspects of bodily and sexual self-determination from access to contraceptives to abortion, artificial insemination, sterilisation, and adoption regulations, as well as health care concerning  reproductive health, and sexual education. Overall, in none of the CEE/NIS countries can all the above-mentioned issues be said to be satisfactorily settled, even though some of the areas – e.g. abortion – are regulated in a way that respect women’s rights to self-determination more than in most other countries in the world. Issues, such as the correlation between different kinds of violence against women and the exercising of reproductive rights, or restrictions or obstacles hidden in lower level legal norms are, however, rarely addressed in the reported countries except by NGOs. Backlash, i.e. the attempt to reverse achievements deriving from the previous regimes’ formal emancipation, is also a problem recurring regularly in the region that specifically affects reproductive rights.

A.         Access to Contraceptives

71.               Access to contraceptives vary widely in the countries of post-communist transition. In some of the countries some contraceptives (likely the less reliable and slightly less safe) are available at an attainable price. Yet, there are many women who can not afford even these pills, and some communities (very often the Roma, and the poor) have little information on the availability and the correct use of these contraceptives. Since 1989, in most CEE/NIS countries little progress has been made towards increasing access to modern contraceptive methods. Most contraceptives are still imported. Many countries in the region also lack the infrastructure to distribute contraceptives effectively, especially in rural areas. The relatively high abortion rates in some countries, especially when it occurs among young women, is also likely to indicate lack of information on, and/or of access to contraception.

B.         Abortion Laws in CEE/NIS Region

72.               As modern contraceptive methods are not easily accessible in many of the region’s countries, abortion is still a necessary means for exercising women’s reproductive autonomy. In the republics of the former Soviet Union, and those of the former Yugoslavia, abortion has been legal since the 1950’s, in some other countries of the CEE/NIS region from the 1970’s. In countries where abortion was illegal, such as Romania and Albania, high rates of maternal mortality were attributed to unsafe abortions. After the transition some countries have attempted to reform abortion laws and to restrict women's reproductive rights (e.g. Hungary), others have recognised the fatal consequences of criminalizing it, and therefore had liberalized their laws (e.g. Romania). Given the lack of access to contraception in many of the region’s countries, restrictions would effectively deny women's reproductive self-determination.

73.               Presently the abortion laws of the CEE/NIS region (with the exception of Poland) are among the most liberal in the world. Liberal abortion laws remain in force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Serbie and Montenegro. The republics of the Caucasus -- Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia -- and the CentralAsianRepublics – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – also have liberal abortion laws. Since the 1980’s, Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech and SlovakRepublics, Hungary, and Romania have liberalised their abortion laws.

74.               All of these laws recognise a woman's right to an abortion when the pregnancy threatens the life or health of the woman, when the pregnancy resulted from a crime, when the fetus is impaired, or for socio-economic or psychological reasons (in some laws called the “crisis situation” of the mother), i.e. virtually without restriction as to reason up to at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and up to week 22 for medical reasons.

75.               Poland is currently the only country in the CEE/NIS region where a woman is denied the right to choose an abortion. In Russia, an abortion is legal at any point in the pregnancy for medical reasons, and up to 22 weeks for social reasons. In all countries in the CEE/NIS region, a woman may obtain a legal abortion at any time should her life or health be threatened. In Poland, abortion is permissible only to protect a woman's physical health, or in cases of rape or fetal impairment. Some recent laws in the region refer to the fetus' right to protection. Poland's law states that the “right to life enjoys protection, including [during] the pre-natal phase.” Hungary’s and Albania's laws, though less restrictive, contain similar language.

76.               Hungary's law provides that “the life of the fetus must be respected and protected from the time of conception,” guaranteeing the fetus and the pregnant woman “the right to assistance and protection.” Albania's law states that its chief aims are to “preserve unborn life” and to protect demographic development.

77.               Both the laws themselves and  lower level legal regulations (such as Ministry Orders) often undermine the liberal abortion laws. These regulations usually contain rules such as the fee for abortion, the requirement for counselling, and waiting periods before abortion, pre-set criteria regarding “crisis of the mother”, as well as instructions for the health-care provider (doctor or nurse) to “influence the mother towards keeping the pregnancy” (as, e.g. the Hungarian regulations put it). Several countries in the CEE/NIS region require parental notification if the individual seeking an abortion is a minor, which is particularly devastating in cases of incest. These regulations often lead to the actual restriction of women’s self-determination.

78.               In many countries in the CEE/NIS region, abortions are performed in public facilities for free or at a nominal cost. The fee is usually relatively low, though often beyond reach of the women seeking abortion. Some countries selectively fund abortions. In Bulgaria, for example, therapeutic abortions and abortions performed on women who have been raped are free, while fees are charged for other abortions. Fees for abortions in private medical facilities vary but are substantially higher.  The Criminal Code in most countries assigns penalties for the practice of illegal abortions.

79.               The abortion rates per woman in the CEE/NIS region are among the highest in the world. While this is the result of basically all abortions being legally obtained and therefore listed in the statistical data, these rates also reflect women's lack of access to modern methods of family planning. Despite the legal foundation for ensuring access to abortion in the CEE/NIS region, with declining birth rates a feature of many CEE/NIS countries, governments are increasingly promoting pro-natalist policies in an effort to encourage higher birth rates among particular segments of the population. Sex education and contraception in a pro-natalist climate are attacked by some as immoral and unpatriotic. These tendencies are highly dependent on governments’ views, but were to be observed in several CEE/NIS countries in recent years, including Poland, Hungary, Albania, and Russia.

C.         Further Reproductive Rights Issues

80.               Sterilisation is a method some women wish to choose when they are sure they do not want another pregnancy. In most countries sterilisation is allowed only beyond a certain age and a certain number of children the women already have. However, there is some reason to believe that “forced sterilisation” is practiced on some members of the Roma community in some countries, where informed consent of the women cannot be said to have been obtained. The verification of such practices would need further research. If such practices proved to be discernible, it would violate non-discrimination, equal-opportunities and human rights regulations.

81.               Artificial insemination, and adoption rules of the region also contain overt or covert restrictions based on age, sexual orientation, and/or marital status. Some countries introduced sex-education in their national education plan (like Hungary), however, even in these countries the shared responsibility of boys and girls/men and women in contraception is less likely to be stressed. Most educational materials are directed towards girls/women as the sole or major party to take responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

V.         Violence against women

82.               International documents, like the CEDAW Convention, define violence against women (VAW) as gender-based discrimination. The different forms of VAW are an obstacle to the full achievement of equal opportunities between men and women, since they prevent women from realising their rights to equally participate in the labor-market, in political and public life, while inadequate state response to gender-based violence prevents women from enjoying the equal protection of the law. In the countries of the region the relatively new phenomenon of the sexualisation of violence against women, promoted and realised by pornography (viewed by many as one of the liberties), trafficking in women and prostitution, is an increasing problem. Though most forms of VAW – such as, e.g. domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, stalking – were known and widely practiced before the transition, the visual images now flooding CEE/NIS countries of women depicted as sexual objects in all possible fields from advertising to hard-core pornography play an important role in encouraging and legitimating different forms of violence against women.

A.         The different forms of violence against women

83.               Domestic violence (DV) is a widespread phenomenon in all countries of post communist transition. In basically all CEE/NIS countries, domestic violence is either considered nonexistent, or is not considered a sui generis crime. No mandatory arrest policies are followed in any of these countries, just as the legal institution of injunction or protection order is unknown. As for damages, there is no information that any DV victim was successful in her pursuit for compensation for the damages she suffered financially, or other, related to her person based on the civil code. None of the reported countries acknowledge in any legally sufficient way the existence of emotional violence usually exerted on DV victims. There are neither effective victim-protection laws regarding victims of DV, nor sufficient shelter or refuge networks provided for the victims. In virtually none of the CEE/NIS countries is there proper legal assistance provided for victims of DV by either the state or NGOs (the latter principally for the lack of financial support). In summary, none of the services ensuring safety, basic human rights, or equal treatment of the victims of DV by the law and by law enforcement agencies are in place in these countries either in the form of effective intervention, or in the form of prevention of further violence. If any, the services are provided by under-funded NGOs.

84.               Rape is a largely unreported crime in these countries: not a single country can provide accurate information on the number of rape cases. The little research that was carried out by NGOs (financed by international funders) shows, that there is a tendency in CEE/NIS countries for reporting to have gone down, and conviction rates to have gone even lower during a twenty year period between 1977 and 1997 (examples are: Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Latvia). 99-88% of rapes are estimated to go unreported. In many of these countries marital rape is not a crime, while in some countries, like in Hungary, Slovenia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, it was criminalised during the last ten years. Criminalisation of marital rape did not lead to a leap in rape charges. In the legal systems of the reported countries the definition of rape is not based on non-consent, but on force/threat/resistance requirements. The only CEE countries where rape was a political issue were Bosnia and Croatia during the war, but even there, the post-war period resulted in re-silencing the issue. In some of these countries the training of police and the judiciary has started, but overall there are no trained law-enforcement officials for effective investigation, neither trained professionals providing psychological assistance to rape victims. The few – if any – services provided are offered by NGOs. CEE/NIS countries lack any systematic approach/protocols regarding this issue.

85.               Sexual harassment at the workplace and at other institutions such as schools, for example, is a widespread phenomenon. In none of the CEE/NIS countries is sexual harassment defined in the criminal code. In some countries, the labour code may be said to contain references to it within its non-discrimination-clause. The civil code in many of the reported countries also contains the non-discrimination clause (potentially referring to sexual harassment as well), while the criminal codes usually contain some form of criminalising the use of force or threat. However, these legal instruments have proven inadequate in successfully punishing sexual harassment so far.

86.               Stalking, which is a usual form of violence against women both after and during partner-abuse (and sometimes even if the parties have never been partners), is a criminal behaviour severely damaging women’s quality of life, very often interfering with their abilities to enjoy equal opportunities in the labour market, and often resulting in murder. Yet, in none of the CEE/NIS countries is it regulated in the Penal Code.

87.               Female genital mutilation (often called female circumcision) is a practice usually attributed to specific traditions. However, there is good cause to believe that it is practiced on women as a punishment for alleged adultery or leaving the relationship in some Roma communities. In order to determine its existence, research should be carried out.

88.               Trafficking in women and forced prostitution is a form of violence against women in all reported countries. Some countries, like Hungary, for example, launched a pilot training project financed by the EU in order to train police officers to be more effective in investigating cases of trafficking or forced prostitution. These training courses, however, are scarce, usually not funded by the governments affected, but by international bodies, and, as yet, lack the systematic nature needed for changes to show.

89.               Violence against young women and girls is a specific issue rarely addressed in the reported countries. Apart from the forms of violence mentioned above, young girls face a further form of violence which is not recognised in its reality in any of the legal systems of the reported countries. Incest (the sexual abuse of a child by a trusted adult relative) is different from rape or related crimes, and most often goes unpunished. Current legal definitions seem to be unable to provide sufficient protection for victims of this behaviour.

90.               It should be noted that most of the work done about violence against women (research, victim-services, training and awareness raising-campaigns) in the CEE/NIS countries is carried out by NGOs, with very little or no state participation or financing. There is a huge lack of reliable statistical data, which may impede state actors (legislation, law-enforcement, curricula at high education institutions) introducing effective measures and creating protocols.

VI.        Women's health

91.               It is widely known that the condition of women's mental health is poorer in Central-Eastern Europe and in the NIS countries than in the Western world. Women's mental health is characterised by different protective and risk factors due to their biological, hormonal and psychological idiosyncrasy and to their different positions in the social system. Women are more likely to get certain mental illnesses, for instance they are twice as much prone to neurosis or to depression all over the world. Women’s traditional role exposes them to more stress factors, however, they are less likely to cope efficiently with stressful situations. Women, whose life expectancy is higher than men’s, have more complaints and illnesses in old age. It is an important goal to improve their quality of life as well as to prolong their lives.

92.               The financing of healthcare systems has an important impact on women's health. In the previous decade, more money was spent on healthcare. It is both surprising and sad that healthcare expenditure in the countries surveyed was much lower even proportionally than the average of the European Union (8.6% in 1998). Azerbaijan spends less than 3% of its GDP on healthcare (1.9%). Armenia (0.4%), Tadjikistan (0.6%), Uzbekistan (3%), Russia (3%), Moldova (3%). In contrast, the national healthcare expenditure of the Czech Republic (6.7%), Slovenia (6.6%) and Croatia (5.9%) exceeds that of other Central-Eastern, and Eastern-European countries.

93.               According to an ILO survey there is a strong inverse correlation between social expenditure and the degree of poverty. In countries where social expenditures are lower, the number of people living in poverty is higher than in places where social expenditure is higher than 20% of the GDP. Only two countries, Poland and Estonia fail to show this correlation. However, in all countries surveyed, the situation of households where children are exposed to the risk of poverty is truly distressing.

94.               The definition of the poverty line is relative, no question about it, so as far as the cost of living is concerned it may  show great differences. If we use an absolute measuring scale (let's say less than 2 USD a day), we can claim that in Romania, 28% of the population and in Bulgaria, 22% of the population live in extreme poverty. In the Czech Republic, in Poland and in Slovenia, less than 2% of the population live on less than 2 USD a day, although these countries traditionally have stronger economies and higher standards of living.

A.         Characteristics of women's health

95.               Women in the region in comparison to Western Europe are at a disadvantage concerning their mental health. Their mental health is in a poorer condition in Central-Eastern Europe and in the NIS countries than in the countries with developed economies.

96.               Services of mental hygiene are significantly underdeveloped and less accessible in the region than in the developed countries. As far as women as victims of violence are concerned neither the healthcare nor  the society are prepared to give enough help.

97.               Women's mental health could be guaranteed through the improvement of psychological and psychiatric services. For instance, the diagnosis of depression and its professional treatment could significantly reduce the number of suicide attempts and completed suicides.

98.               In the CEE/NIS countries, depression is the most recurrent health problem of women. In Hungary, for instance, in 2000, 9.5% of women admitted to suffer from symptoms of depression. Depression, in the long term, increases the risk of physical illnesses, the evolution of self- destructive behaviour patterns and it drastically reduces the working ability. Suicide thoughts, suicide attempts and completed suicides often concomitant with depression are recurrent among women in the region in comparison to other parts of the world. A mental disorder specifically connected to women is depression postpartum blues. They have not yet discovered if depression has a direct effect on the development of the embryo, but its indirect effect is obvious due to self-destructive behaviour. In Hungary, according to nationally representative polls, 5.5-13.6% of pregnant women suffer from severe or mild depression. The data of the WHO show that as many as 34% of women may suffer from post-partum depression. In the region, several programmes have been launched to raise the efficiency of the diagnosis of post-partum depression. In Albania, for instance, new training programmes have been launched through the Women’s Health Centers, which allow social workers who are in close contact with women to recognise their problem in time and persuade women to seek treatment.

99.                 Women's mental health and their health-damaging behaviour patterns are closely related. Regular alcohol consumption is drastically high among women in the region compared to developed countries. (see Table 3.)

100.           Abuse of psychoactive drugs, like sedatives and other medicaments, is very frequent among women. The young female population in the region is primarily at risk, since self-destructive behaviour patterns are increasingly frequent among them. But we could also mention here cases of extreme dieting and obsession with figure, which often lead to severe physical and mental health damage. In Russia 3.4% of female students meet the criteria of anorexia nervosa. In the CzechRepublic, cases of anorexia nervosa have significantly increased. In 1973, the incidence was 1.08/100,000 inhabitants, which increased to 4.1/100,000 in 1991.

101.            The incidence of physical, mental and sexual abuse is alarming in the region according to surveys. In Moldova, in 1997, for instance, more than 7% of women reported physical abuse by their partners, while 18% said that her partner had abused her at least once in her life. 2% of Hungarian women report being raped. The memory of aggression can lead to different somatic and psychological health damage, such as chronic pain syndrome, neurosis and depression. The majority of abused women looks for medical help but rarely reveals the actual causes of her problems, so these usually remain hidden. Therapies for the abusers are very scarce in the region, although preventing violence could be one of the bases of prevention. The staff of healthcare institutions usually does not inquire about abuse, moreover medical doctors rarely suspect abuse to be the underlying cause of the symptoms and illnesses. Smoking and alcoholism are more frequent among abused women.

102.           The mental health of ethnic groups in the region, especially of the Roma population, is significantly worse than that of the dominant population. Self-damaging behaviour patterns, such as smoking, are more frequent among Roma women. Depression syndromes are also more widespread among them, although research shows that the depression scores of young Roma and non-Roma women with the same educational level were the same.

B.         The characteristics of women's physical health

103.           The most frequent somatic illnesses of women in Europe are non-contagious diseases. According to the WHO data, 86% of mortality is due to preventable, non-contagious diseases. In the European region, every second death was due to cardiovascular diseases. In Estonia, Russia and White Russia, the standardised early cardiovascular mortality is 150/ 10 000 among women under 64, which is three times as high as the mortality rate in Western Europe. Women living in the Central-Eastern European region or in the NIS countries are significantly more likely to bear the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases, such as smoking, diet of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. 9% of the overallmortality of women can be linked to smoking. The data of the MONICA project shows, however, that women in the region do not differ significantly from women from Western Europe with regard to obesity, more precisely in their waist and hip proportions. The most frequent oncological disorders among women were breast, colon/rectum, cervix, gastric and lung cancer in the 1990's. Injuries, especially fracture of the femoral neck because of post-menopausal osteoporosis, disable a great number of women in the region.

104.           Reproduction and theprevention of unwanted pregnancy are important issues for women's health. In the region, the quality of gynaecological special care varies greatly. In certain countries it is the attitude of the doctors and medical staff towards women that determine the application of modern contraceptive methods. Therefore in Russia, Romania and Belarus there are a lot more  abortions than in Western countries. In 1998 there were 26-9 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-49 in Hungary. 37.7% of women aged 19-41 prevent pregnancy by oral contraceptive pills, 17% by devices within the uterus, 8% with condoms, 6 % with intercourse interruption, 3% by temporary abstinence, 0.6% by calendar method and 0.2 % by other means. Maternal mortality is also higher in the countries of transition, in Romania, for instance, the rate is 60/ 100,000 quick-birth (in Western countries 5-7/ 100,000 quick-birth), which is due to the poor quality of medical supplies and to the poor hygenic conditions in hospitals.

105.           Protective factors are essential for prevention. A goal in life, trust, low hostility and a firm societal support all reduce the risk of depression syndromes, health-damaging behaviours and maladaptive coping strategies. A higher educational level of children and parents also raises the chances to better mental health, so it is essential to guarantee the education of women.

106.           Women's health is an area that is very much neglected in the region. Prevention of mental illnesses should begin as early as possible, since it is at a young age that such self-damaging behaviour patterns develop, like smoking, alcohol and psychoactive drug use, and a negative mental disposition.

107.           The prevention of somatic illnesses through health care programs, the reduction of environmental and societal harms are the guarantees of a more healthy generation of women. We define mental health by wellbeing and by a lack of illness. Six factors characterise mental wellbeing: individual autonomy, personal development, building up positive relationship with others, having goals in life and self-acceptance. Besides these factors, it is important to strengthen societal support in various fields of life. Experience of the previous year shows that supporting networks in schools, communities have a very positive impact on the performance and the physical and mental health of young women. They enhance the formation of positive coping strategies and a healthy lifestyle, while reducing the dangers of stressful factors. They also reduce the rate of depression, of illnesses and of early mortality, while strengthening self-evaluation, self-confidence and the chances of seeking help, which is very important in crisis situations.

108.           It is important to raise the level of hardiness in young women, e.g. the acceptance of stressful situations (seeing that is a necessary part of the development) and to see that problems may lead to innovation and development. Resiliency, which means a successful adaptation, positive functioning in various situations and an active and constructive solution of problems, should also be mentioned as an important factor of mental health.

VII.       Social care: family planning, the elderly

109.           It was by end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties that, besides the obvious advantages, the negative effects of globalisation appeared in the reviewed countries. These effects were the growing social inequalities, exposure to the labour market and to other social and environmental risks, as well as a growing and more persistent mass unemployment and the atomisation of society. At the same time, the demographic ageing of society, the changes in the traditional social role of the family, the increases in divorces and in single parent families also became prevalent. These societies were simultaneously faced with the social risks mentioned above and  declining economic productivity (transformational crisis). In such unfavourable circumstances, it was not easy for any of the governments to efficiently allocate their limited financial resources. 

A.         Social expenditures

110.            Naturally, the families or family members were not equally affected by the massive and persistent unemployment, the growing income gaps or the significant increase in poverty. (See Table 4.) The main problems in all these countries are the impoverishment of children and the low labour market participation of the active population, especially of women. Nevertheless, the political will and the economic potentials have been of as decisive importance in influencing the level of social expenditure as the social factors mentioned above. The proportion of social expenditure within the GDP indicates how much of the economic resources was spent on pension, healthcare, education, family care, social benefit, aid, and employment policy.

111.           In the recent years, the GDP has increased, but it still has not reached or exceeded its level of 1989, except in Slovenia and Albania in Central-Eastern Europe. (See Table 5.)

112.           Although it is not possible to accurately compare the years and countries for a number of methodological reasons, it can be safely claimed that at the beginning of the 90's, the proportion of social expenditure grew within the GDP. The highest level was 26% in the countries of the Central-Eastern European region, while in the "former Soviet member states", in the former Yugoslavian states and in Romania and Bulgaria it stagnated at a lower level. The reasons for the relative increase in spending are the decline in the GDP and the emerging massive social problems.

113.           The situation changed after 1996. In Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the proportion of social spending within the GDP was between 23 and 25%, while in the Baltic states and in Romania and Bulgaria it was between 14 and 17%. (Note that the average level of the European Union was 27.7% in 1998).

B.         Provisions for supporting families

114.           The system of social policy allowances and services has undergone a great transformation in the previous fifteen years. This change was due to the devaluation of allowances and also to their differentiation. It is true that in some counties (e.g. the Baltic states, Russia and Ukraine) the proportion of expenditure on family allowances within the GDP grew in the 90's, but that was because the proportion of these allowance benefits within the GDP had been below 1%. In countries where this value was higher, e.g. in the countries of the Central-European region, the rate of spending has increased.

115.           Indexing, which is a method for guaranteeing the stability and reliability of the allowance system and the stable value of the allowance benefits was only used in the CzechRepublic. In other countries, such as Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria it was not used at all, while in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia it was partly used.

116.           Due to the real value loss of financial support, the increasing child poverty, the negative economic and labour market processes, most allowance benefits are primarily designed to provide relief for poverty and are less sensitive to other considerations in family politics, such as natal issues.

117.           Countries with different political and ideological backgrounds responded in various ways to the dramatic increase in the number of divorces and of children born out of wedlock. In all the countries, it is on the agenda of the governments to provide additional support for single parents, but for instance in Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Poland it is less of a priority than in Slovenia, the CzechRepublic or Hungary.

118.           According to the MONEE report close to 1.5 million of children are taken care of by state- funded childcare services. It is a very low number, considering that close to 18 million children live in poverty, according to the report.

119.           In Slovenia, the situation seems to be satisfactory, since there was a 12 % point increase (from 56% to 65%) of children aged 3-6 in institutional care between 1989 and 1999. In the Ukraine, however,  the trend was just the opposite. In 1989, 65% of children aged 6-9 were in day care, while in 1999 only 45%.    

120.           The changes in the  number of day care services also influence the women's position in the labour market, since these services make it easier for them to return to wok or to find employment.

C.         Pensions

121.           Data show that the gradual ageing of the population is not the only problem of the industrialised countries of Western Europe and North America. It is an increasing concern for other regions as well. Among the surveyed countries, in Hungary, Croatia, the then Yugoslavia and the Ukraine, close to one third of the population is above 60 years of age. Taking into consideration that in most countries of the region, the pension system functioned also as a means of channeling social tensions, it is quite obvious that many people who had not yet reached the age of retirement but were "useless" in the labour market,  were chanelled into the pension system. In this "group of under-aged pensioners" women are over-represented.

122.           The majority of the region spends between 6.4% of the GDP (Romania) and 11.4% (Lithuania) on pensions. It is Slovenia (14.4%) and Poland (16.6%) that spends the most on pensions.

123.           Given the amount of expenditures and the significant number of dependants, most countries (Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria) have reformed their pension systems. Reforms started between 1996 and 2002, with the aim of involving capital funds and the money market to provide security in old age.

124.           Researchers point at three equally important correlative factors in the ageing of society. These are the decline in productivity, the high mortality rate of active adults and the rise in life expectancy, which implies the increase of the inactive life period. This last factor affects mainly the female population, since their life expectancy (at birth) is higher than men's life expectancy all over the world. As we move to the East, the difference is higher (6,7 years in the Czech Republic and 13,2 in Russia) . There is another correspondence, namely that in Eastern Europe the life expectancy of women is lower by 2-7 years and men's by 4-13 than in Central Eastern Europe.

125.           A serious problem is the situation of elderly people living alone. As a consequence of their relatively high life expectancy, there are a lot of single elderly women, and it is a special mission for politicians in the countries of transition to ensure their proper social care and health care.

VIII       Conclusions

126.           The states of the so-called “statist feminist systems”, using their political and social power and propaganda, managed to cover up the depths of the inequalities in gendered opportunities. So, after the transformation, the illusion still remained that equal opportunities for women had already been established. The constitutional and legal basis of gender equality was secured by the constitution and the institutions of democracy during the democratisation. At the same time, the society of countries in post-communism transition was not prepared for the dramatic changes that occurred in the differences of opportunities (according to age, region, education, etc.) During the transformation of the economy, women fell out of the labour market in great numbers, to find themselves in the household, which did not provide any income for them, or they became early pensioners. Women's political representation radically decreased, compared to the "statist feminist" era, when their representation was regulated by quota. So the first step should be to secure women’s meaningful participation in different levels of political life

127.           For achieving progress in gender equality in the countries of post-communism transition it is necessary to muster sufficient political will, to focus more attention on gender-mainstreaming issues, and to allocate sufficient resources. Good practices also should be studied and replicated, especially in the field of co-operation with non-governmental organisations, which can help in the devising of effective national action plans.

128.           It is very important to integrate gender equality in the day-to-day life of the countries of post-communist transition. People should be equipped not only with gender knowledge but also with practical tools on how to use this knowledge. It also seems vital to give examples of positive changes in the society, which have already occurred or will occur as the result of gender equality beingestablished.

129.           Scientists and researchers should be involved in identifying new indicators for monitoring progress in gender development in these countries. The practical benefit of gender policy implementation should be shown and presented to the society.

130.           We consider women's equal rights as a fundamental human right. Women's social status, their place in the labour market and their health, as well as their ability to exercise self-determination and their rights are the measure of democracy. In this analysis, due to the diverse nature of the countries with regard to their history, society, constitution, and politics, we could not consider each country in detail, but we sought to provide a consistent theoretical ground for future actions.

IX.        Tables

Table 1

The proportion of women MP's in Central Eastern Europe and in the NIS countries











11 (7,1%)*


8 (5,7%)**



13 (10,4%)*





26 (10,83%)*


63 (26,2%)**

The CzechRepublic

+ senate


30 (15%)*



34 (17%)**

10 (12,3%)**



18 (17,82%)*


19 (18,8)**


+ senate





10 (10,3%)**

19 (31,1%)**



17 (7,2%)**




+ senate



31 (20,53%)*





+ senate





8 (10,4%)**

2 (5,1%)**


+ senate





6 (10%)**

1 (2,2%)**


+ senate



66 (13,04%)*

11 (11%)*



93 (20,2%)**

23 (23%)**



17 (17%)*


21 (21%)**



15 (10,64%)*







38 (9,8%)***



9 (8,91%)*


13 (12,9%)**


+ senate



34 (7,71%)*

1 (0,56%)*





4 (3,05%)*




+ senate



40 (11,59%)*

10 (7,14%)*





21 (14%)*


29 (19,3%)**



12 (13,33%)*







13 (26%)**



35 (7,78%)*







18 (7,2%)**

“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”


8 (6,67%)*


22 (17,5%)**






European Council

8485* (83,3%)

1698 (16,7%)*



European Parliament


194 (30%)* in the cycle 99-04





149 (42,69%)*



Source:*Stability pact gender task force – Building national gender equality mechanism in South-East Europe Women’s use of the state 1999-2001. Published by Stability Pact Gender Task Force, Ljubljana, March 2002.

** www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm


Table 2

Women's average earnings per month in the percentage of men's average earnings in selected years in selected countries


Women’s average earnings per month in the % of men










































































































l, m




l, n




a, o

































a�) Atkinson and Micklewright (1992, table 4.2)
b) Social strata surveys
c) Polish labour market surveys
d) Lakatos, 1998
e) Orazem and Vodopivec, 1995
f) Shircel, 1998
g) The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia labour market survey
h) Tzvelkova-Anguelova, 1998: refers to national wages
i) NCS, 1998
j) Papp, 1998
k) CSBL, 1998
l) LDS, 1998
m) refers to physical workers
n) refers to white collar workers
o) the data of 1989 refer to the former Soviet Union
p) Russian longitudinal survey
q) study on Ukrainian household incomes and spending
r) survey on life conditions in Azerbaijan; the data are not nationally representative and the results should be treated with caution
s) Survey on life conditions in Kazakhstan

t) NSCKR, 1998
u) EU/ Essex survey in Usbegistan.

: MONEE Project, UNICEF 1999. p. 33. table 2.2

Table 3

Mortality of alcohol induced hepatic cirrhosis among women in countries of Central Eastern Europe


Standardised mortality rate per  100,000 inhabitant











The CzechRepublic




Great Britain


Source: Global Status Report on Alcohol, Substance Abuse Department,
Social Change and mental health, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1999.

Table 4

Poverty risk


poverty risk (1997-1999)


Poverty level


The proportion of families with children to the total number of the poor (%)

The CzechRepublic






























Sources: Study on the Social Protection … (2002) [Table 3. and columns 4. : Figure 5, Table 12)

Note:By poverty we mean that the level of one consumption unit  (flexibility=0,75) is below 50% of the median (Worldbank, 2002).

Table 5

Major demographic, economic data and social indicators (2001)


Demographic data

Economic data

Social indicators (2000)


Population (thousand, person)


proportiona (%)


proportionb (%)

GDP growth (1989=100%)

Real income


Price index

(previous year=100%)

Employment ratioc

aged 15-24  Registered unemployed (%)

Income inequalities






























































“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”










Bosnia and Herzegovina
























































































































Sources: Social Monitor 2002 (UNICEF)

population aged  0 -14 / population aged 15-59
population aged above 60/ population aged 15-59

number of employed as % of population aged 15-59

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Reporting committee: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Reference to Committee: Doc N� 9441, reference N� 2729 of 29 May 2002

Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the Committee by on 30 September 2003.

Members of the Committee: Mrs Err (Chairperson), Mrs Aguiar (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Mikutiene (2nd Vice-Chairperson), Mr Baburin, Mrs Bauer, Mrs Biga-Friganovic, Mrs Bilgehan, Mrs Castro, Mrs Cliveti, Mrs Curdova, Mr Dalgaard, Ms Fogler, Mr Foulkes, Mrs Frimannsd�ttir, Mr Gaburro, Mr Goldberg, Ms Hadjiyeva, Mrs H�gg, Mr Juri, Mrs Katseli, Mrs Kestelijn-Sierens, Mrs Konglevoll, Mrs Kosa-Kovacs, Mrs Kryemadhi, Mrs Labucka, Mrs Lintonen, Ms Lucic, Mr Mahmood, Mr Mooney, Mr Neimarlija, Mrs Paoletti Tangheroni, Mrs Patarkalishvili, Ms Patereu, Mr Pavlov, Ms Pericleous-Papadopoulos, Mrs Petrova-Mitevska, Mr Pintat (alternate: Mr Branger), Mr Pullicino Orlando, Mr Riccardi,  Mrs Roth, Mrs Rupprecht (alternate: Mrs Wegener), Mrs Schicker, Mrs Yarygina, Mrs Zapfl-Helbling, Mrs Zwerver.

N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries of the Committee: Mrs Kleinsorge, Ms Kostenko