ALMATY, Dec 8 (Interfax). Emerging Europe and Central Asia is losing its advantage in gender equality, the World Bank said in a new report, "Opportunities for Men and Women: Emerging Europe and Central Asia."
"During much of the last century, Emerging Europe and Central Asian countries surpassed those in other regions in establishing the equal treatment of women and men," said Sarosh Sattar, World Bank Senior Economist and the main author of the report. "In the past, the governments in the region allocated substantial resources toward health and education of both men and women, provided child care services, and adopted gender-blind labor legislation. But, as our new report shows, the region's advantage in gender equality has eroded, and the region now looks more similar to the rest of the world," said Sarosh Sattar, World Bank Senior Economist.
He says it has happened because the rest of the world is catching up, critical services such as child care have been significantly cut back, and some new gender disparities have emerged in the region.
The report finds three areas of gender inequality in the Emerging Europe and Central Asia region:
First, there are gender gaps in health and tertiary education in the economies of the region. In health, men are dying too young in some countries, such as Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. In other countries, such as in the South Caucasus, there are unusually low numbers of girls being born. Up to 16 percent more boys than girls are born in the South Caucasus, an imbalance second only to China and India. In education, relative parity exists among men and women at the primary and secondary level, but gender gaps emerge at the tertiary level with not enough men attending universities. There are also large gender gaps in basic school enrollment rates for minority groups such as Roma children.
Second, the structural changes in the economies of the region have opened up economic and employment opportunities for women and reduced some avenues of prosperity for men. The growth of the services sector and the shrinkage of the manufacturing sector have created job opportunities for women while reducing some high paying jobs for men. Despite this, women's earnings are on average about 20 percent less than those of men, though the gender gap in wages varies significantly across countries in the region.
Third, the dramatic demographic changes in the region have different implications for men and women. The region's population is aging and fewer children are being born, which will result in a shrinking labor force and increasing vulnerability to old age poverty. Between 2009 and 2025, the share of the population above 60 will rise sharply, from 15 to 25 percent of the population, and women will constitute 57 percent of this age group. The challenge is to increase labor participation rates for both men and women, at the same time as protecting women's ability to have children and provide them with good quality care.
According to the report, "achieving gender equality can help support economic development and prosperity in the countries of Emerging Europe and Central Asia."
"While aiming to achieve equal opportunity among men and women, we must not forget that men and women differ," said Sarosh Sattar. "Women differ from men in terms of their roles in the private sphere, their greater vulnerability to physical insecurity, longer life spans, and their fertility, among other factors - and these different realities need to be taken into account. We also believe that more effective use of women's human capital and removal of the impediments that women face in contributing to the economy will help countries in their economic growth," said Sattar.
The WB suggests increasing women's labor force participation, improving the quality of education and reducing gender imbalances at the secondary and tertiary and eliminating health disparities that remain in individual countries of the region.