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Globalization, Uncertainty and Women’s Careers

An International Comparison

Edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld and Heather Hofmeister

Globalization, Uncertainty and Women’s Careers assesses the effects of globalization on the life courses of women in thirteen countries across Europe and America in the second half of the 20th century.
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Chapter 8: Women’s Employment in Estonia

Jelena Helemäe and Ellu Saar


Jelena Helemäe and Ellu Saar INTRODUCTION In western developed countries, a combination of economic and technological development, mediated by the sociopolitical environment, creates structural change (DiPrete et al. 1997). In Estonia, the dismantling of state control over the economy led to a rapid rise in structural changes such as private ownership and in the market-based allocation of resources and consumer goods (Gerber 2002). This chapter examines the impact of this rapid structural change on Estonian women’s employment by comparing career transitions before, during and after the national transition to a market economy that occurred from 1989 to 1999. We begin with a description of the labor market situation in each of these time periods. The pre-transformation labor market situation, 1989-91 The main features of the Estonian pre-transition labor market – mostly produced by the rigidities of the Soviet regime and shared by all socialist economies – were job security and hidden unemployment, gender pay equity and high female labor force participation (Haltiwanger and Vodopivec 1999; Riboud, Sánchez-Páramo and Silva-Jáuregui 2002). The Estonian economy in 1989 was part of the economy of the Soviet Union and was closely bound up with its raw material and product markets. Work structures were heavily dominated by central planning. The supply of jobs and demand for them was subject to direct bureaucratic control by state agencies. Administrative control over job supply and demand was usually envisaged as an ideological project aimed at achieving full employment, which implied not only an absolute guarantee of...

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