Capitalism brings 'rampant sex bias'

Issue 

Capitalism brings 'rampant sex bias'

Working women in Russia and eastern Europe have endured "rampant sex bias" as a result of the restoration of capitalism, according to a November 15 Associated Press report.

A survey of some 900 companies and interviews with more than 500 women conducted by the United States-based Women, Law and Development International, and funded by the US Agency for International Development, found that workplace discrimination has become common in Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine and Russia.

Anne Zollner from WLDI said that in every country studied, "Women disproportionately endure the negative consequences of privatisation and the transition to a free-market system", including unfair lay-offs, chronic unemployment, discrimination in hiring and sexual harassment.

The Institute of Urban Economics in Russia, the Women's Rights Centre in Poland, Kharkov's Centre for Women's Studies in Ukraine and the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation assisted in the study, which found:

  • as privatisation brought lay-offs, women were discharged at a much higher rate than men. In the Ukraine, for instance, 80% of jobs lost from 1994 to 1998 were held by women;

  • despite sometimes higher levels of education, women face discrimination in hiring and routinely are asked about marriage and child-bearing plans;

  • women in Poland are paid 82% of men's salary in private companies; in Russia they're paid 65% of men's salary in civil engineering and 82-90% in the clothing and footwear industries; and

  • sexual harassment is becoming commonplace.