Economic Transition and the Position of Women


21 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012

Date Written: December 8, 2004


This paper examines the changing status of women during the 1990s in Eastern Europe (including the former Soviet Union). The period has been one of enormous socio-economic transformation as former command economies have given way to more mixed systems, with significant changes to the means of livelihood of the population and the position of women. Eastern Europe was well regarded for its achievements in the field of gender owing to its success in assuring equal access to education and healthcare, and encouraging paid employment for all. The concern is that the transition to a market economy may have eroded these achievements with the burden of the transition falling disproportionately on women.

The paper examines how women have fared during the economic transition in Eastern Europe. It focuses on two aspects of women's status: health and labor market involvement, and uses a range of data sources to examine trends in these variables over the 1990s. It concludes that while there has been an erosion in some former achievements, at least in some areas men have been more adversely affected by the transition than women.

The paper also contrasts the interpretation of some of the ‘status’ measures relative to their use in the Indian context. In contrast to the old regime under which work outside the household was both a right and a duty, the right to withdraw from the labor force has been emphasized as an important element of women empowerment during the transition. Likewise, it is difficult to interpret the sharp declines in fertility as an unambiguous ‘good’ in a context where access to pre-natal care has declined and fertility is already very low.

Keywords: Women, Eastern Europe, life expectancy, health, labor force participation

JEL Classification: J16

Suggested Citation

Murthi, Mamta and Paci, Pierella, Economic Transition and the Position of Women (December 8, 2004). GENDER DISPARITY: MANIFESTATION, CAUSES AND IMPLICATIONS, P. Bharati, M. Pal, eds., Anmol, 2005 , Available at SSRN:

Mamta Murthi

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Pierella Paci (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

Washington, DC 20433
United States

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