Concepts, Research, Policy
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Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 26: Understanding the Gender Dynamics of Russia’s Economic Transformation: Women’s and Men’s Experiences of Employment, Domestic Labour and Poverty
Sarah Ashwin When Russia launched its programme of economic ‘shock therapy’ in 1991, commentators were quick to predict that women would be the primary victims of economic reform. It was anticipated that unemployment would have a ‘female face’, that the wage gap would grow and that female labour participation would fall, trends that were likely to lead to a ‘feminisation of poverty’. But despite a deep depression lasting most of the 1990s and a devastating decline in living standards, these predictions proved inaccurate. Indeed, the continuity in gender trends in employment has been notable. Although men have retained their economic advantage, women have maintained their presence in the labour force. Moreover, official figures reveal no significant gender difference in the proportion of men and women living below the ‘subsistence minimum’ (Russia’s poverty line). There is evidence that the task of managing the adjustment of households to new economic conditions has fallen disproportionately on women, but otherwise women’s position relative to men has been stable. The paradox is that while men have higher incomes than women, as well as a lighter burden in terms of domestic responsibilities, they have proved less able to ‘survive’ Russia’s transformation in the literal sense of the term. Economic reform has had a dramatic impact on male mortality rates, leading to a gender gap in life expectancy of over 13 years between 1994 and 2006. In light of this, it is difficult to portray women as the ‘losers’ in Russia’s transformation. Rather, the extremity of Russia’s...
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