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Gender Discrimination and Inequality in Georgian Labour Market

This article is a summary of a larger policy paper written within the framework of the project “Gender Policies and EU Integration – “Experience of Visegrad for Eastern Partnership Countries”, implemented by the Fund of Women Entrepreneurs of Georgia.

Despite the fact that gender equality and prohibition of   discrimination in labour relations are enshrined in various national legal acts, as well as in internationally binding legal documents, which Georgia acceded to, the reality on the ground is quite different.

Women compared to men, are less active in labour market, and more likely to be employed in lower-paid occupations and sectors, where they have much lesser opportunities to progress in their careers.

Gender equality within a society is strongly defined by how men andwomen position themselves in the labour market. Persisting gender stereotypes, cultural and traditional attitudes within the society have significant impact on women’s and men’s position and role at every stage of their life, including in labour market. Different models of upbringing of boys and girls, gender-stereotypical expectations and the role society chooses to assign them, further reflects in the gender-segregated labour market. It is noteworthy, that according to the findings ofa2013 UNDP gender perception report on Georgia, 88% of the Georgian population think that “men should be a breadwinner in the family”,  66% of the respondents share the idea that “it is always better when a man works and a woman is at home” and79% think that “woman should prioritise her family over her career.”

Only 11% of the interviewed believe that “women should be equally contributing to the family welfare”. Such attitudes toward women, largely contribute to women’s subordinated position in society.

Furthermore, woman’s ability to get a decent job that corresponds to her qualificationsin the labour market is closely correlated with the division of the workload within the family. Women more often than men have to choose between their careers and family lives.They bear  disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work (cleaning house, cooking, taking care of sick family member, taking care of children etc.), which negatively affects their career development and empowerment in the society.

According to official statistics, in Georgia, economically active men outnumber the women by20% (77.4% vs 57.1%).This is despite the fact that the enrolment rates in primary, secondary and higher education practically equal for both genders or in some cases exceed by women (for instance, women make up 56% of students in higher education institutions, while men – 44%). This proves that women have much less opportunity for realisation of their educational potential than men.

Women are also more likely to be  victims of gender-based violence, especiallywithin their families.According to the statistics by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MIA), out of 2,638 officially registered victims of domestic violence 87.3% are women.Such treatment devastates women, stalls their development and ambitions, and diminishes their competitiveness and productivity at work. 

A variety of statistical and research data shows that the labour market in Georgia is characterised by high gender inequality,in terms of labour force participation and employment rate,gender-based employment segregation, and disparities in the average salaries. According to official statistics, in 2014, the average monthly nominal salary equalled GEL 980 for men and GEL 618 for women (-37%).

Some occupations are traditionally perceived as “male” or “female” that leads to horizontal segregation. Available data shows, gender disparity in labour division by types of activities is more significant in education, healthcare, and social services. For instance, according to 2014 national statistics, women constitute over 85% of employees in the education, 72.5 % in healthcare and social assistance sector and 61% in hotels and restaurants. At the same time women are lesser represented in so called “masculine” occupations, namely, in construction – 6.5%, manufacturing – 26.7%, and in the real estate market – 32%.

The vertical segregation is even more visible, especially in decision-making positions.According to the Global Gender Gap Report in 2015, the share of women among legislators, senior officials and managers in Georgia was only 34%.Inother words, there are almost 3 times more men than women in top decision-making and managerial positions.

Government policies often do not adequately reflect the challenges faced by the women. This is largely due to lack of political will, but also due to weak institutional capacity and lack of gender-sensitivity. Government programmes and budgets do not go through a gender expertise before being approved and implemented. The government bodies collect only a limit number of gender-disaggregated data. Such practices result in gender-blind state policies.

In order to bridge the gender gap in labour market of Georgia, it is very important to consolidate actions and response of all stakeholders including the government (central and local), donor organisations, the private sector and civil society organisations to strengthen the supply of and demand for policies and programmes favouring women’s access to the labour market. There is a need to create full, decent productive employment opportunities for women and access to finance, as well as continue to provide social support services, and importantly, promote and value women as a source for economic development and growth. Putting more money in the hands of women issignificant, because women tend to spend a greater portion of their incomes on their families. Increasing women’s income and their control over family spending can lead to improvements in child nutrition, health, and education, and work to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

As women are a majority of the poor in Georgia (55% of women are subsistence allowances beneficiaries), improving their economic circumstances can also directly reduce female poverty and improve women’s well-being. In addition, key for economic growth is the promotion of women’s economic rights, which entails promoting a range of women’s rights such as rights to education, their reproductive rights, rights to voice and make decisions, and to live free from violence.

Project if funded by the International Visegrad Fund (www.visegradfund.org) and implemented by the Fund of Women Entrepreneurs. (Project # 31550123).

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Ekaterine Gamakharia 

Consultant in Gender issues, Master in Human Rights Law from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law