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Women’s path in the transitional economy of Russia: from unpaid work to business


Gvozdeva, Galina & Gvozdeva, Elena (2002). Women's path in the transitional economy of Russia: from unpaid work to business. Canadian Woman Studies, 21(4), 121-123.


In the pre-reform period before 1989, women's participation in the public sector of the economy was very high. From 1992 to 1998, due to the significant downturn in Russia's manufacturing industry, and overall economic activity, women's participation rate decreased from 82 to 73 per cent (and men's dropped from 87 to 78 per cent) ("Statisticheskij Bulleten"). Many women have moved from active participation in the formal labour market to the unpaid work of the household. During this same period, the level of employment for working-age women decreased from 77 to 64 per cent while the unemployment level increased from five to thirteen per cent ("Socialnoe polozjenie i uroven zjizni naselenija Rossii"). Since 1998, economic activity has increased and the unemployment rate dropped to around ten per cent by 2001 ("Obsledovanie naselenija po problemam zanjatosti.").

How have recent changes in Russia's economy affected the relationship between men's and women's incomes? While in the U.S. the gender gap in wages seems to be declining (Blau, Morgan), in Russia market transformations have had the opposite result. In 1989 the wages of women in different age groups were 70-75 per cent of men's wages, but by 1994 the difference had risen, especially for younger women: in the 20-24-year-old age bracket, women received 56 per cent of the average male wage, and in the 25-29-year-old age bracket it was 60 per cent ("Doklad o razvitii chelovecheskogo potenciala v Rossijskoj Federacii. God 1998"). In a few professions, women and men are paid equally: teachers, house-painters, flight attendants ("Men and Women in Russia").

Inequality in the sphere of unpaid work is shown in that women with lower money incomes have to work more in the house and on household plots. For example, in the autumn of 1996 unpaid work among employed rural women was 23 hours a week longer than among their husbands, eight hours longer than among their urban counterparts and 26 hours longer than among urban men. And although paid work among men was five or seven hours a week longer than among women, it is obvious that women did far more unpaid work than men. On the other hand, men, especially rural men, did most of the heavy work in private farming (for example, care of cattle). The gap between men and women and between urban and rural unpaid work had decreased by 1998 as had differentiatials in monetary incomes. This was a result of the reallocation of the average work load (unpaid work in particular) for those employed who had become employed unemployed. Thus, as women and those living in rural areas lost their jobs, their workload decreased.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Canadian Woman Studies


Gvozdeva, Galina
Gvozdeva, Elena