As of now, the labor force participation rate for women is under 47% worldwide, while for men it is 72%. The global difference is 25 percentage points (pp), but for some regions the gap is more than 50pp. Apart from this, female workers face many employment limitations. In some cases, it means that they cannot take full-time jobs not by choice as compared to men. On average, women spend around three times more time on unpaid work than men, which affects their possibility to dedicate their time to paid jobs. As a result, women have lower access to social protection. In general, when they do, due to the gender pay gap, the benefits are lower. For example, in 2019, the difference between pension of men and women aged over 65 was 29% in the EU. Furthermore, according to the ILO policy brief (2021), the COVID pandemic worsened gender inequalities in the labor market globally, resulting in disproportionate job and income losses for female workers because of their overrepresentation in sectors that were hit the most and where they are often working informally. Increased unpaid care work for women, an increase in domestic violence as well as women’s limited access to social protection was also mentioned to lead to difficulties for female workers to keep their jobs.
This policy brief aims to describe the gender-specific differences in the labor market of Azerbaijan and Georgia, studying the country-specific characteristics of the work domain as described in the ISET Gender Equality Index and elaborating on respective problems that exist in these two countries.
There are many reasons why women do not have equal access to the labor market as men. According to Datta (2018), one of the limiting factors is related to social barriers. In many countries, there are still strong social norms which force women to handle only the household tasks and where the society has a negative attitude towards women working. There are also persisting occupational stereotypes that could limit women’s access to the job market. According to ILOSTAT 2020 data, women dominate mostly the occupations, such as personal care workers, health and teaching professionals, cleaners and helpers, and customer service clerks. Furthermore, mothers being considered as major caregivers in families, is another source of discrimination against women in the workplace. This is confirmed by the survey conducted with decision makers at companies in the UK, depicting the employers’ reluctance in hiring women who may have children. In relation to the latter, while the legislation of many countries may provide a somewhat generous package of maternity leave to female employees, often it does not encourage men to take paternity leave as in some cases the latter is not even paid. This forces women to be detached from employment for a longer period. Furthermore, in some countries of the Middle East and Asia, there are even legal restrictions limiting women’s participation in entrepreneurial activities or in the job market.
This section of the policy brief provides a snapshot of the labor market of Azerbaijan and Georgia with gender perspective, utilizing the Gender Equality Index (GEI) developed by ISET and ISET Policy Institute in Georgia. The GEI index consists of six core domains, that are: Work, Money, Knowledge, Time, Power, and Health. For the purpose of our analysis, we mainly concentrate on the domain of Work, but where necessary also provide some relevant country-specific characteristics that are related to other domains as well. The Work domain, in turn, consists of two sub-domains: i) Participation and ii) Segregation and quality of work, all together measuring the extent to which women and men can benefit from equal access to employment and good working conditions. The index value varies from 1 to 100 – the higher the value, the better is the country positioned in terms of gender equality.
As chart 1 depicts, out of 12 countries, Estonia is the best performing country with 77.9 points. Azerbaijan, with 65.3 points, ranks the second from the bottom, while Georgia ranks 9th place with 68.8 points (Chart 1).
Chart 1. Work Domain of the Gender Equality Index (2020)
The lower level of gender equality in the Work domain for Azerbaijan is mainly driven by higher gender inequalities depicted in the sectoral segregation, flexible working time arrangements and career prospects indicators under the Segregation sub-domain of the GEI index (Chart 3). The country performs better in the Participation sub-domain, ranking second among 12 countries. The latter consists of two indicators, in turn: i) full-time equivalent employment rate, and ii) duration of working life (Chart 2).
Chart 2. Participation Sub-Domain of the Gender Equality Index and its Indicators (2020)
As for Georgia, the level of gender equality in the Work domain is mainly driven by its relatively good performance in the Participation sub-domain (Chart 2).
Chart 3. Segregation Sub-Domain of the Gender Equality Index and its Indicators (2020)
In Azerbaijan, women make up around 52% of population aged 15 years or older (Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, 2021). According to 2021 statistical data, 4.9 million people are employed, 48.3% of which are women. Out of 315.7 thousand unemployed, more than half (57.7%) constitute women. Importantly, women represent the majority (65.7%) of the economically inactive people in Azerbaijan. By law, 648 thousand women who are housewives are not considered officially unemployed and they count as economically inactive people. However, there are no statistics indicating whether they chose not to work by themselves or were forced to do so. As of 2019, only 21% of unemployed women were registered in state employment agency and received an unemployment status, as opposed to 47% of unemployed men. This could be partly explained by the fact that women have lower digital literacy and less access to digital platforms to be registered as unemployed. Therefore, mostly unemployed men have access to social privileges, as among people receiving unemployment benefits, only 35.8% were women (Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, 2022).
Regarding the educational attainments, which plays an important role in the labor market outcomes, only 16.6% of the economically active population of Azerbaijan has higher education. Out of economically active women, 59,6% have received secondary education, while only 14,1% of them have higher education. While for men, these estimates accounted for 59,4 % and 19%, respectively (Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, 2022).
Traditional and prohibited workplaces for women in Azerbaijan
There are workplaces (mostly involving caregiving activities) that are usually considered to be more appropriate for women in Azerbaijan. According to the recent data, women constitute 75.2% of employees in the education sector, 76.2% in the healthcare and social services, and 62% in the tourism and entertainment sector (Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, 2021). Only 36.2% of workers having management positions are women, while the latter social group constitute 78.6% of clerical support workers. The fields with the lowest participation rates of female workers are i) transportation and storage (8.6%), ii) construction (8.7%), iii) mining (10.4%) and iv) electricity, gas and steam production, distribution and supply (11%). (Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, 2021).
On an important note, there are prohibited jobs for women in Azerbaijan. According to Article 241 of the Labor Code, the use of female labor in workplaces with harsh and harmful working conditions, as well as in underground tunnels, mines and other underground works is forbidden. If a person is not engaged in physical work, but rather works in managerial positions, or is an employee providing social, sanitary and medical services, there is no ban on employing women in that field. Labor code further dictates that women may only lift and transport heavy objects with a total weight within the limits of certain norms.
There is no field of economic activity in Azerbaijan where women earn 100% of what men do. The average monthly salary of men is AZN 300 (40%) higher than that of women. In the education and healthcare sectors, women earn 70%-80% of men’s earnings. The most profitable sectors of the Azerbaijani economy are the mining industry, the sector of financial and insurance activity, where on average men earn AZN 2,081.3 (USD 1,224.3) and AZN 1196,1 (USD 703.6), respectively, while women earn about 60% of it (Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, 2022).
One of the core domains of the ISET Gender Equality Index is the domain of Power that measures the women’s equal representation in decision-making positions across the political and economic fields. In the public sector, the majority of leadership positions are taken by men in Azerbaijan. As the preliminary estimates of the political power sub-domain of the GEI Index show, in 2021, Azerbaijan obtained only 13.7 points out of 100 (ranking last out of 12 studied countries) depicting a high level of gender inequality in politics. The Political Empowerment dimension of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Equality Index (measuring women’s representation in political office) lists Azerbaijan at 140th place among 152 countries worldwide (Georgia takes 94th place). Interestingly, as Campa (2021) reports in her policy brief, based on data from the latest wave of the World Value Survey (2017-2020) on voters’ attitudes, in Azerbaijan 60% of survey respondents agree with the statement that “Men make better political leaders than women do” (e.g. around 55% in Georgia). These percentages are substantially lower (less than 20%) in Western Europe. Compared to the political field, the situation is somewhat better with regard to women’s equal representation in decision-making positions in the field of economics, where Azerbaijan ranks 10th place with 31.5 points. According to the World Bank Enterprise Survey (2019) data, 15.3% of firms in Azerbaijan have female participation in ownership, while the percentage of firms with majority of female ownership is 10.5%. Notably, there are 16.5% of firms in Azerbaijan with female top managers.
The Labor Code of Azerbaijan does not encourage men to be more heavily involved in caregiving activities. According to the legislation, women can have 126-180 days maternity leave when they can get full payment of their salary. There is no term “paternity leave” mentioned in the legislation, but it is stated that men having babies can get only 14 days off from work which will be unpaid. Such unequal conditions constrain women from active participation in the labor market that in time may lead to degrading their skills and working experience.
Women constitute around 54% of the Georgian population aged 15 years or older. As of 2021, the unemployment rate among women is 17.8%, while for men it amounts to 22.7% (Geostat, 2021). Despite the fact that the unemployment rate is lower among women, the number of women outside the labor force (965.9 thousand) is almost twice as many as the number of economically inactive men (519.7 thousand).
The most popular fields for women to work in Georgia are the education sector with 81.5% of female employees; the human health and social work activities with 83% of female workers; and activities of households as employers and undifferentiated goods and services-producing activities of households for own use, where the absolute majority (97.7%) of workers are women (Geostat, 2021). The least popular work fields for women employees are construction and the transportation and storage sector.
30.1% of the overall population of Georgia (aged 15 years and older) have higher education (Geostat, 2021) This indicator for women accounts for 31.8%, while for men it stands at 28.2%. 37.8% unemployed women are the ones who received higher education, while for unemployed men this figure is much lower – 25.9%. Compared to men, women with higher education have less employment opportunities. The employment rate for women with higher education degrees is much lower (53.6%) in Georgia than it is for men with the same educational attainments (62.7%) (Geostat, 2021).
Gender differences in wages are significant for Georgia as well. Average monthly salary for men is GEL 1,407.7 (~ USD 500), while for female employees it accounts to GEL 952.2 (~USD 337) (Geostat, 2020). As of 2020, monthly adjusted pay gap level equaled 21.4%. Looking at the disaggregated data at sector level, the highest monthly gender pay gap was observed in construction (38.2%) and in the service sector (21.6%).
Georgia ranks 2nd (out of 12 countries) at both Economic and Political Power sub-domains of the ISET GEI index (2021) with 68.2 and 58.2 points, respectively. Introducing gender quotas in recent (2020) parliamentary elections have resulted in a slight improvement of the women’s representation in the Georgian Parliament – one of the selected indicators of the GEI index. As of today, out of 143 members of the parliament of Georgia, 27 (18.9%) are women. As per the women’ representation in the economic field, according to the recent (2020) data, the number of businesses founded by men in Georgia is almost twice as high as the number of women founded businesses. The World Bank Enterprise Survey (2019) data shows that 22.4% of firms in Georgia have female participation in ownership, while the percentage of firms with majority of female ownership is 11.5%. Similar to Azerbaijan, 16.5% of firms in Georgia have female top managers.
According to the Labor Code of Georgian, upon request women can receive paid maternity leave of 183 calendar days. However, as leave is not mandatory, private companies in some cases can pressure their female employees to shorten the leave period (Babych & Mzhavandze, 2021). As the Georgian legislation states, while maternity leave is an exclusive right of the mother of the child, the father has also a right to enjoy the days of that leave which have not been used by the mother of the child. The labor code also provides the possibility for additional paternity leave, when upon his/her request, an employee may be granted not less than 2 weeks a year and additional unpaid leave of 12 weeks.
Gender equality expands the economy and economic development, in turn, contributes to greater gender equality. Female labor force participation tendency is U-shaped, first declines and then rises in the process of economic development (Goldin, 1994). In this process, it is important that societies build an inclusive environment for all, where women have access to different fields (e.g., government, business, and civil society). Women represent half of the world population, therefore it is important to raise awareness about their problems, speak up for them and let them participate in decision and policy making processes.
As discussed above, in the case of Georgia and Azerbaijan, gender differences in the labor market outcomes are evident. One of the prominent issues for Azerbaijan is the lack of women representation in the decision making bodies as well as established social norms defining gender roles. To some extent, these challenges are relatable to Georgia as well. Although men and women are equal by law, there are persisting issues on the practical side. To deal with it, communities, government authorities as well as private sector representatives should act cooperatively and address existing challenges comprehensively. Established social roles of women, stereotypes in workplaces and respective legal restrictions (in the case of Azerbaijan) limit women to fully participate in the labor market. Where necessary, respective policy changes should be introduced, accompanied with raising awareness on gender issues. These efforts could be strengthened with a more systematic approach, reforming the education system. The latter should consider encouraging and assisting young girls from their early stage of career development to study in different fields. In the long-run, these activities should evantually lead to higher equality in various social and economic settings.
Author: Zulfiyya Mehdiyeva
The blog is produced within the Economic Policy Research Center’s (EPRC) project ACTION -Activating Civil Society Organizations through Training and Inclusive Operational Network. The project is implemented with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
The views expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of EPRC and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
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 The Money domain measures gender inequalities in access to financial resources and women’s and men’s economic situation; The Knowledge domain measures gender inequalities in educational attainment, and participation in education and training; The Time domain measures gender inequalities in allocation of time spent doing care and domestic work; The Power domain measures gender equality in decision-making positions across the political and economic spheres; The Health domain measures gender equality in the following health-related aspects: health status, health behaviour and access to health services.
 Despite that fact that Azerbaijan ranks the first among the listed countries, the value of the respective indicator (36.1) is still low.
 Flexible Working Time Arrangements shows the ability to take time off for personal or family matters and is measured as a part-time employment (% of total employment). Career Prospects is measured as 1 – Vulnerable employment (% of total employment).
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