reports by keralaguest


									 Ministry of Children and Family Affairs
 Republic of Latvia

               Men Equal Men Different
              (EC GRANT No VS/2005/0343)

Men in Latvian Public Environment:
Policy, Social and Economic Aspects

       Klāvs Sedlenieks, Karīna Vasiļevska 2006
Men in Latvian Public Environment                              2

Table of Contents

ASPECTS                                                        3

I.I LEGAL FRAMEWORK                                            3

I.II SOCIAL SUPPORT FRAMEWORK                                  6


II.I EDUCATION SYSTEM                                         10


III. MEN AS BREADWINNERS                                      13

III.I ECONOMIC BARRIERS                                       13


III.III RECENT IMPROVEMENTS                                   17

CONCLUSION                                                    17

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                  17

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                                      3

                        Men in Latvian Public Environment:
                        Policy, Social and Economic Aspects

The position of men in the Latvian public environment has to be viewed within the
framework of general attitudes towards the roles and responsibilities of men in Latvia.
This paper will highlight several of the main aspects that have to do with the role of
men as both equal and different in Latvia: state family policy, social and economic
barriers to active fatherhood.

I. Men as Fathers: Family Policy in Latvia
State family policy planning currently falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of
Children and Family Affairs (MCFA), which is a relatively new ministry. It was formed by
uniting different departments that were previously administered by the Ministry of
Welfare and Ministry of Justice. A special assignments minister was appointed for the
first time at the end of 2002, and a full status ministry was opened in April 2004. The
gender equality division remained with the Ministry of Welfare, therefore gender issues
are not separately reflected within the goals of the MCFA. Bearing in mind the decline of
demographic indicators in Latvia, the new Ministry as its main tasks defined
improvement of the conditions for more children to be born and promotion of “family
values.” Among the 14 goals of Family Policy Action plan 2004 – 2013 (November 30,
2004),1 none target specifically men or women. Many are linked to supporting family as
a whole, not emphasizing specifically the role of the mother or father. Following will be
a short overview of the legal and social framework of the family policy making in Latvia,
with an emphasis on the role of men within it.

I.I Legal Framework
Among several aspects that can be discussed regarding the legal framework, the
employment situation is certainly of utmost importance. The Employment Law in Latvia
(article 7) stipulates that regardless of gender (among other factors) each individual has
an equal right to employment, fair and safe working conditions that do not harm their
health. The laws regarding employment and social benefits are generally in good order
and comply with the EU guidelines. However, great discrepancies exist between the
legal and real life situations. A regular working week, for example, should consist of 40
hours (Employment law, article 131). Yet, according to a Time budget research in 2003
the average time spent by men at paid employment was 46:13 hours, which is
considerably more than stipulated by the law, women spent 39:21 hours per week.2 On

1   [State   Family
    Policy Action Plan] (last accessed May 22, 2006)
2'2005-02-23%2013%3A00%3A00'%7D     [Time budget for

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                                   4

top of that, overtime has to be paid for at least in the amount of the regular wage
(Employment law, article 68), yet, 42,5 % of those who admitted having worked
overtime at a given week, admitted that they had not been compensated for it.3 Similar
discrepancies can be observed in the matters related to the birth of a child for both
women and men.

Private sector is generally perceived as the bigger culprit in violating the Employment
law, while the public sector is known for its more family friendly policies and lesser
working hours. This would at least partly explain the greater number of women being
employed in public sector than men. Private sector businesses on the other hand are
usually seen as much less transparent and their employees much less protected with so
called “envelop wages”4 still being a common practice to avoid tax payments. In the
absence of reliable data, it is up to this research project to investigate the commonly
held belief that it is not only male, but also female employees of the private sector,
who are very vulnerable in case of a child birth, as they often do not receive the rights
allocated to them by the law.

The Employment law also regulates the use of part-time work. For example, a pregnant
woman, a woman with a child younger that one year old or who is nursing a child is
entitled by law to a part-time employment (article 134). In addition, an employee
(regardless of gender) who has a child younger than 14 or a disabled child is also entitled
to part-time work (article 134). The MCFA experts admit that in reality the flexible and
part-time work is seldom utilized in Latvia. In addition, a labour survey of 2005
indicated that over one third of those actually working part-time do so because they
cannot find full-time work.5 In addition, a pregnant woman is entitled to leave work if
she requires a medical consultation that cannot be arranged outside of the working
hours (article 147). Everyone who is working more than 6 hours is entitled to a 30 minute
break (article 145), on top of which an employee (regardless of gender) with a child of
up to a year and a half old is entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes every 3 hours for
feeding the child (article 146).

The Employment law also stipulates the allocation of leave related to child birth and
immediate post-natal care. The maximum of 126 days of pre- and postnatal
(maternity) leave6 are granted to a mother (article 154), whereas the father is
allocated 10 days of a paternity leave after the birth of the child but no later than 2
months after the child is born (article 155). Not only is the paternity leave considerably
shorter, it is also used much less frequently than the maternity leave. Since the
paternity leave was introduced in 2004, it has been used by 4,521 fathers in 2004 and by
5,495 fathers in 2005, whereas the maternity benefit in the same time period was

    Latvian inhabitants in 2003] (last accessed May 22, 2006)
3 [Work
    organization and working times of the employed] (last accessed May 22, 2006)
     Envelope wage refers to a wage that is paid without taxes being withheld and therefore it also is not
    registered with the state revenue services
    [Labour Survey Results in 2005] (last accessed May 30, 2006)
    112 to 126 days depending on different preconditions, usually 56 before and 56 (+14 if the woman has
    entered medical programme before week 12 of pregnancy, has had a hard birth or given birth to twins)
    Employment law, article 154.

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                                       5

allocated to 23,284 (2004) and 23,528 (2005) women. 7 If the mother has died or
disowned the child, the father or another person who takes care of the child, is entitled
to 70 days of leave (article 155) and maternity leave in the amount of 100% of the
average wage. This is similar to the post-natal leave a mother is allocated. If the mother
is unable to take care of the child due to health problems, father or the other care-
taker is allocated the leave for the time period until she is capable of doing so. Thus, it
is clear that the mother and not the father is considered by law the primary care-taker,
at least in the immediate period after the child is born.

Either the mother or the father (but not both of them) is also entitled to a childcare
leave of a maximum of one year and a half in the time period until the child turns 8,
that is covered by the state social insurance (article 156). This time period is considered
towards the total years of being employed. The employee has the right to come back to
the previous job. If that is not possible the employer has to provide an equal position.
Even though both parents are eligible to this type of leave, in practice, it is mostly the
mothers who utilize this leave, which also manifests itself in the unofficial term used to
describe the benefit that is paid during this leave “māmiņu algas” or “mothers‟ wages”.
In addition to the four calendar weeks of yearly paid leave stipulated by law, a parent of
either sex who has 3 children younger than 16 or a disabled child is entitled to an
additional 3 days of leave (article 151).

On top of the employment situation, there are several other legal aspects that have to
be analysed briefly in this study. According to the law stipulating income tax, one of the
parents can also claim certain income tax exemption rights for having children under
the age of 18. As only one parent can add the child to his or her income declaration, it
would be interesting to investigate, if more mothers or fathers do so and why.

In addition, according to the civil law, custody rights can be allocated to either parent,
while in practice they are usually allocated to the child‟s mother. The alimony payment
that is often determined by the court is also most commonly attributed to the fathers.
According to a recent study8 out of 103 analysed court cases there were only 8 cases (7.8
%) where the plaintiff was a father. In all other cases plaintiffs were mothers. Even
smaller proportion can be observed among the cases of parents unable to pay the
alimony, which is then covered by a state foundation: 9652 fathers (98.6 %) and 137
mothers (1.4 %)9.The provisions of how to act in the case of divorce are not very
detailed and are based solely on the civil law, which leads to a situation where the
decision is left at the judgement of the judge, who judges based on previous cases and
therefore reflect general stereotypes of mothers being the primary care-takers. The
issue of if and how these provisions influence father‟s relationships with their children is
beyond the scope of this research project.

All in all, it can be concluded that with the exceptions of the difference between the
    The number of leaves is calculated based on how many times the paternity social benefit was allocated [Public Overview of Maintenance Guarantee Fund] (last
     accessed May 30, 2006)
     Tallija, Andra, Elīna Ālere,. „Sieviešu un bērnu tiesību īstenošana laulības šķiršanas gadījumos Latvijas
     tiesu praksē‟ 2006 [Enacting rights of women and children in divorce cases. Practice of courts in Latvia]
9   [Public Overview of Maintenance
     Guarantee Fund] (last viewed May 29, 2006)

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                             6

length of the maternity and paternity leaves and a lack of more detailed custody
provisions, the barriers to the increased role of Latvian men as fathers are more
operational than legal, as the legal system to the most part complies with the EU
recommendations and international standards. The barriers to men‟s increased role in
active fatherhood have to do to a great extent with the general stereotypes that exist
among the employers and the general public about what family duties are specifically
male or female.

I.II Social Support Framework
The state social insurance benefits are meant to guarantee an individual a certain
substitute for income in the event of sickness, unemployment, accident of work or
contraction of an occupational disease and several other cases, including prenatal and
postnatal (maternity) period. The following will be a short overview of the main State
Social benefits and support schemes that are allocated to families with children, with an
emphasis on the support offered to fathers.10

In general, it can be argued that most of the benefits are paid to one parent only, who is
usually the mother of the child, even though in most cases legally it can also be the
father. It will also be shown that the support scheme is currently aimed at short-term
encouragement of more children being born, as there are additional benefits for second
and every next child, which coincides with one of the main goals of the family policy
pursued by the MCFA which is to improve the social benefits system to support the
betterment of the demographic situation.

The person is socially insured, if the social tax has been paid for him or her. The
compensation is usually paid based on the amount of taxes withheld from the salary,
which unfortunately leaves vulnerable those employees, whose employers do not pay
their taxes in full amounts11. State social benefits system provides support also for those
persons who are not socially insured, or whose contributions are not sufficient for
receipt of insurance benefits and pensions, but this support is often lower than the living
wage (for example child benefit for socially uninsured persons is 50 LVL per month and
the living wage in April, 2006 was 114.42 LVL per month12).

During the pre- and post-natal (maternity) leave, a maternity benefit is paid to a
socially insured mother of the child. If a woman has entered pre-natal care before the
12th week of her pregnancy, has delivered two or more children or has experienced a
hard birth, she receives 14 days of additional leave and according benefit. Maternity
leave is calculated based on the 100 % of the average wage for the last 6 months of the
tax paying period. If a person is self-employed this time period is increased to 12
months. Paternity benefit is paid to the socially insured father for the time period he is
on the paternity leave, which is 10 days according to the law. The benefit is calculated

     All the benefits are described at the following web-page of the Welfare ministry:
      By implication it is possible to speculate that this vulnerability concerns mostly men since they are
     more often employed in private sector, i.e., the sector where tax avoidance is the highest.
12 (last accessed May 23, 2006)

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                             7

in the amount of 80 % of the average wage for the last 6 months of the tax paying
period, for self-employed 12 months. The paternity benefit has been introduced recently
and as mentioned previously has been used by less than half of the fathers in 2004 and
2005. Paternity and maternity benefits are the only benefits that can be received by the
mother and the father at the same time, with the father being allocated a shorter time
period (10 as opposed to 112 or more days)13 than the mother and being compensated in
a lesser amount (80 % of average wage, whereas mothers receive100 %). All the other
benefits are paid either once or are paid to either one of the parents. (For a schematic
portrayal of different leaves and benefits allocated to parents based on their gender,
see Table 1, p. 5).

     It is interesting to note that the law counts differently time of men and time of women. The leave for
     women is counted in weeks, while men are entitled to 10 days. Men are only entitled to a leave
     counted in weeks when they are effectively perceived in the law as substitutes of women, i.e., if the
     mother has died or for other reasons cannot take care for the child.

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                             8

Table 1: Paternity/maternity leave and available benefits depending on the gender of
parents. The depicted benefits are only for those who take full-time leave. Parents can
continue (restart) working and receive 50% of the childcare benefit for the 1 st year of
the child. In both cases only one of the parents can use the benefit

Child birth benefit is a lump-sum of 296 LVL14 paid once to one of the parents for each
child or a guardian who is responsible for a child younger than one year old after the 8 th
day after birth, adoption or establishing the guardian status. Starting with January 1,
2006, the child birth benefit is supplemented by an additional benefit of 100 LVL for the
first child, 150 LVL for the second, and 200 for the third and every next child.

Childcare benefit is paid for the time period until the child is one year old to the parent
taking care of the child if he/she is unemployed or employed and taking the childcare
leave. If the person is currently unemployed (therefore socially uninsured), the amount
paid is equal to 50 LVL per month. If the person is employed (therefore socially insured
and taking a leave from work), the amount is calculated based on 70 % the average wage
paid for the last 6 months (12 months for self-employed), but cannot be lower than 56 or
exceed 392 LVL per month. The benefit in the amount of 30 LVL per month is also paid
to one parent for the children aged one year to two years, if the beneficiary is
     1 LVL is approximately 1.42 EUR. Thus the child birth benefit is approximately 422 EUR

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                             9

unemployed or is employed and taking the childcare leave or alternatively working part
time (not more than 20 hours per week). Childcare benefit is not allocated if the other
parent is receiving maternity leave during that period. For twins or more children there
are additional childcare benefits. An additional 50 LVL per month childcare benefit per
month is allocated for each next child (if it is second, third etc. child) until the child is
one year old, and 30 LVL per month for each next child until the child is two years old.
This benefit can be used by either mother or father, but, in practice, it is mostly
mothers who take this leave and collect the benefits (“mother‟s wages” as it is
commonly refereed to).

In addition, even if the parent, who receives the childcare benefit, returns to work
(even half-time), he or she retains 50 % of it on top of the salary. This addition to the
law was achieved by the women who could not risk being out of the work force for the
whole year. Anecdotal evidence at the moment shows that if faced with the situation of
much higher salary than their partners more often than not these are fathers who
choose to take the childcare leave and then return to work anyway (legally or illegally).
There is currently no reliable statistical evidence of how many fathers have taken the
childcare leave at all, as gender of the parent is not noted when applying for the
benefits. In absence of reliable research date, it would be up to this research project to
investigate how many fathers take this childcare leave and how many of them really stay
home with the child.

State family benefit is also allocated to one of the parents or care-takers who is raising
a child under the age of 15 or a child age 15 - 20, who is studying and is not married,
unless the child receives a stipend in a professional educational course. The amount of
the benefit is equal to 6 LVL per month for the first child, 7.20 LVL for the second child,
9.60 for the third child, 10.80 LVL per month for the fourth and each next child. The
state also supports parents with a disabled child in an amount of 50 LVL per month until
the child is 18 years old.

To conclude this overview, it has to be mentioned that despite the special benefits and
social services for families with children, research shows that the greatest risk to
become a low-income family in Latvia (besides being unemployed) is for families with
children or single parent families. The risk increases with each child in a household. 15
Keeping in mind the stereotype of man as a “bread-winner” in Latvia, the economic
vulnerability of the families with children, can be considered as one of the factors for
increasing the time men spend at work and not with their children, despite the legal

     Sociālie procesi Latvijā. Analītisks apskats: R.: Centrālā Statistikas pārvalde, 2003,
Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                        10

II. Stereotypes of Men in Latvia: Social barriers

There are significant social barriers in Latvia causing social and cultural pressure against
more substantial involvement of men in family life. Stereotypical attitudes towards men
portray them as aggressive, less caring, career oriented, and controlling. Domestic
duties are often divided into feminine or masculine where childcare (or care for other
people in general) and other subsistence activities (as cleaning, laundry, cooking) are
perceived as feminine while men are supposed to be experts in fixing and moving
activities. Following written state guidelines and supported by gender-unaware school
and university teachers, such discriminatory ideology is being ingrained in children,
teenagers and adolescents of both sexes from early age. This results in particular choice
of life-style, profession and attitude towards work which in turn shapes economic
situation of both men and women that reinforces a situation when men are little
involved in family life and/or childcare. Although currently there is certain optimism in
the public sphere about “new fathers” becoming more widespread species and
noticeable development of legislation promotes men‟s rights to engage in family life,
positive changes are still little documented. On the contrary – research shows that men
are more often than not forced out of the domestic sphere and unable to construct
positive narratives about their bond to children and other family members.

II.I Education system
A recent study16 shows an alarming situation in the system of primary and secondary
education. Three analysed state documents (The Standard of basic education in social
skills (sciences), Example of education program and Example of pre-school education) all
demonstrate a requirement for a child starting already from infancy (0-3 years old) to be
aware of their sex and show appropriate behaviour. Similar requirement is repeated for
schoolchildren of all ages. Only starting from grade 9 (approximately 16 years old) kids
are supposed to learn about gender equality17.

Apart from the mentioned requirements there are no more specific guidelines about
what exactly is the appropriate behaviour of a 3 year old girl or boy. In addition,
kindergarten teachers even if they following the recent regulations have higher
education, in general have never had any appropriate training in gender issues 18.
Ministry issued methodological materials on development of boys and girls in pre-school
age stress that “due to activity of sex hormones boys are more aggressive than girls” and
boys are physically stronger at age below 7 years. At age 3-7 as the documents state,
boys experience early development of the right hemisphere of brain and therefore are

     SIA “Investīciju Serviss” 2005. Situācijas analīze izglītības sistēmā par dzimumu līdztiesības
     jautājumiem. [Analysis of situation in the system of education regarding questions of gender equality]
     Despite these problematic statements the research states that in general the language of regulating
     documents is not discriminatory.
     None of universities in Latvia that educate school and kindergarten teachers have courses in gender
     equality and none has any plans of introducing such courses although there are courses on gender
     issues in other faculties.

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                         11

better at motoric activities (as contrasted to development of left hemisphere for girls
leading to better language mastery). It leaves little doubt that such materials stimulate
kindergarten teachers to certain gender-specific expectations. Boys are expected to be
physically active, aggressive and poor at communication (language skills).

The methodological materials regarding kids at pre-school age also often replace term
„parents‟ with „mother‟ when talking about parent-children relationships, thus
downplaying father-child bond. Thus, for example, the Pre-school education program in
the section of social characteristics states that:
         [Child‟s] trust in [surrounding] world depends on his/her mother‟s love and care

         A child does not experience anxiety if they are taken care of by other people instead of his/her

         The child‟s mother reacts faster and more actively to his/her signals than other people. 19

The same situation continues in schools. Consequently, although school teachers believe
that they are aware of the necessity to have gender-neutral education, in practice
majority of school-teachers believe that gender equality means that “Women and men
are different and therefore they have different rights and responsibilities (76% of

In general school programs are not segregating children according to their gender with
exception of physical education and domestic tasks training [mājturība, darbmācība].
Physical training becomes segregated from grade 6. Boys are expected to master
exercises that challenge physical strength (while for girls it is flexibility and artistic,
dance-like exercises)21.

Although domestic tasks training according to official requirements should not be
gender-specific, in reality most schools do practice segregation. Boys are usually being
trained in working with wood and metal while girls receive training in knitting, cooking,
embroidery and other similar tasks.

It is possible to argue that such gender-specific training in combination of stereotypical
attitudes from the part of parents give important input in the fact that at school
children strongly support gender division of domestic tasks. Children in most cases would
suggest that men‟s tasks are “Fixing furniture, screwing bolts, fixing cars, working with
domestic appliances, painting floor, fixing taps, cutting firewood” while women‟s tasks
are “organizing celebrations, cooking, cleaning house, doing laundry, ironing, knitting
and sewing”22

Children also discriminate against gender regarding preferable teacher for certain
subjects. Thus physics, informatics, and sports are expected to be more suitable for
male teachers while literature, visual arts and music – for female teachers. Less than ¼

     Quoted in SIA “Investīciju Serviss” 2005. Situācijas analīze izglītības sistēmā par dzimumu līdztiesības
     jautājumiem. [Analysis of situation in the system of education regarding questions of gender equality],
     p. 24
     Ibid: p. 34
     Ibid: p. 20
     Ibid: p. 27

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                        12

of all children would state that there is no difference what gender is a teacher in a
particular subject.

Absolute majority of teachers in schools and kindergartens are female. Male teachers
are often teaching sports and domestic tasks for boys.

Analysis if school textbooks also demonstrates reinforcement of gender stereotypes
regarding typical behaviour and choice of professions, although recently the situation
starts to improve. 23

Thus the pre-school and school environment indoctrinates boys for physical tasks and
strips them of knowledge necessary for child-care (and care for other members of family
in general), locking them in knowledge area associated with manipulating inanimate

II.II Reproduction of stereotypes in adult life
The tendency of locking out men from the domestic sphere continues in adult life. Social
anthropologist Aivita Putnina conducted a qualitative study on Latvian masculinity (both
of ethnic Latvians and ethnic minorities) demonstrating that men are largely lacking
association with children and their role in family is often perceived as the provider of
subsistence means. Putnina writes that
         A deep emotional bond with children was not outlined in any of the [conducted] interviews. Such
         silence was usually explained as natural. That however does not mean that such a bond is not
         being formed – Janis [one of the informants] describes birth of his child as the most beautiful
         event in his life but was not able to communicate this in an established narrative. Such narratives
         are being created but they are marginal and therefore they don‟t play significant role in passing on
         of accepted positive father‟s experience (Putniņa 2005:84).

Public discourse also usually depicts men as „naturally‟ less prone to involvement in
family matters other than providing material means for the existence of family. This is
being explained as the „natural‟ emotional weakness of men and their inability of
commitment to the hard work with children and in domestic sphere 24. If men do show
care for children and other members of family, it is being interpreted as extraordinary
and something „special‟. Putnina describes that in some cases wives see such behaviour
as unmanly and prefer not to speak about such expressions of „weakness‟. During the
last decade gender equality (mostly stemming from feminist approaches) have changed
the earlier widespread assumption about the biological nature of inequality. However,
idea that biology is not the best explanation for gender-specific behaviour in Latvia, is
more accepted when speaking about women. Public discourse on problems concerning
men often involves biological arguments. Highlighting of men‟s problems is often
     SIA “Investīciju Serviss” 2005. Situācijas analīze izglītības sistēmā par dzimumu līdztiesības
     jautājumiem. [Analysis of situation in the system of education regarding questions of gender equality],
     p. 65
     In public debates such view is almost always expressed by women and they are also the ones who
     usually speak on the topic.

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                       13

mocked as inappropriate (as compared to the appropriate stoicism of a traditional

It is a widespread expectation that men are the breadwinners of a family. Most often
men are also expected to be the „heads‟ of the household. But in reality more often
than not they are not the main decision-makers in the domestic sphere.

As a result, men are being forced into the niche of wage-earners and such image often
forms their social and gender identity. Among other things, this image is reflected in the
situation that after a divorce, children stay with their mothers despite the fact that
fathers often express a wish that children would stay with them. As Putnina writes in
case of one of her informant – a father who at a divorce trial expressed a wish that his
son remains with him, the judge rhetorically asks - “And what would you do with him
[your son]?”. Women are supposed to be naturally bond to their children while men have
to „do‟ something with them in order to justify their claim.

The described cultural norms, both results in and cause economic barriers for more
intense involvement of working fathers in family life.

III. Men as Breadwinners

III.I Economic barriers
The expectation for men to be the active breadwinners and for women to be the primary
caretakers is reflected in the current job market and the level of education of men and
women in Latvia. The higher the education level, the less men take the opportunity to
engage in it. In the schools of general education the percentage of boys change from
52% in the grades 1-4 to 42% in grades 10-12% (year 2004/5). In year 2000 out of all
economically active women 23% had higher education, 64% had general or medium
professional education, 12% had basic or basic professional education while only 1% had
unfinished basic education (less than 9 grades). In the same period among economically
active men only 17% had higher education, 60% had general or medium professional
education, 21% had basic or basic professional education while 2% had less than 9
degrees of education. Thus there are approximately twice as many persons among men
than among women who have completed only the basic training. At the same time the
average wage of women constitutes only about 80% of that received by men25. This
demonstrates that men are leaving education in favour of starting earning earlier and

The situation when men are earning more than women in combination with their low
level of formal education potentially forms a problematic situation when it comes to
using the benefits provided by the state for childcare (for instance – paternity leave). On
the one hand if a man is the primary breadwinner in family, it makes more sense
economically, that women leave their work to stay with the children. When it comes to
the paid paternity leave, it is often the case that men, who have higher official salary,


Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                     14

take the paternity leave but continue working to earn extra money. At the same time,
the low level of formal training in combination with early started professional career
indicates that men more than women rely on their practical hands-on experience in
their professional life26. A time out then would mean lost professional capacity and this
forms additional pressure for men not to leave work for taking care for children even if
the state provides such an opportunity.

Illustration: Men and family

Sestdiena, a Saturday supplement of Diena, one of two national newspapers
recently published an article about Nils Melngailis, the current managing
director of Lattlecom, the largest telecommunication company in Latvia. One
of the sections of the article is named “Family as a value”. Despite this
promising title the section pictures a typical male role in family, the bread-
winner who sees his family only rarely and is hardly involved in its affairs. The
narrative starts with a story about Nils‟ parents and sisters but when it comes
to his children is limited to naming ages and future plans of the children. This,
though, is soon continued by a description of Nils as a workaholic who has
little free time. There is hardly any evidence that family for Nils is more than
a means to use money he has earned.

Family as a value
Family is important for Nils. “My grandfather reached 102 years in January. He
has the hardening experience of a Latvian army officer. I am very proud of
him. Both of my parents are PhDs and have worked both in science and
academic field. This trend is now being continued by my sister and obviously I
am also inspired by their example.” He has three sons – 19, 10 and seven years
old. Asked what is that what he himself could not achieve and would like to
see achieved by his sons, he has to think. “I do everything to provide them a
possibility to choose their own path. They have very different characters and
substances,” Nils replies rather satisfied. The older – Martiņš studies at a
college in Cambridge. He started with politics, but later continued with
economics. He won in a very tough entrance competition.

Nils Melngailis is also often described as a workaholic – not so long ago he used
to work 12 hours a day, allowing himself only a short rest in week-ends. His
work day now is shorter and at week-ends he tries to break away from the
routine as much as possible. “Previously I did not do that. Then I understood
that I was loosing efficiency. When you are exhausted, you are good for
nothing.” From the age of three his hobby is alpine skiiing. That‟s why two
weeks every year are spent in the Alps. Children also started skying early – at
the age of two to three years.” (Sestdiena, 06.03.2006, p. 24)

     Not only women have better formal education, a suvey (SKDS 2005: 30) shows that women are also
     more eager to continue their education and acquire new information regarding their current

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                        15

Moreover, professions with notoriously low level of wages, such as school and
kindergarten teachers and doctors are dominated by women. In majority of schools
women who work there directly rely on some other sources of income, often their
better-earning husbands. It is important to note that this situation explains why there
are so few men working in these professions. It is difficult for a man to exist in a
situation when he while being expected to be the active breadwinner is working in a
profession which presupposes being dependent of other economic support networks. This
situation is somehow different in large cities and in the countryside. In the countryside
state and municipal institutions (like hospitals and schools) are often the most secure
sources of monetary income. Such a situation might suggest that men at the countryside
might be more prone to work as teachers and doctors. But it is almost impossible for
them to choose such a path because of the pressure against men having longer and
better education.

There are significant differences regarding general economic situation between the
capital Riga and rural areas. While the economic situation in Riga is improving and
unemployment rate there is low, in rural areas unemployment can climb up to 20%. In
rural areas economic situation is more favourable for women. Women in general have
better education and are therefore more suitable for more secure and family-friendly
state and municipal employment. General economic decline in rural areas means that
„traditional‟ male employment as wage workers in agriculture or manufacturing has
declined as well but the low level (or specific) education prohibits men from entering
new employment areas. On the other hand the „traditional‟ employment areas are
paired with lifestyles which are not family-friendly either and are certainly not subject
for flexible work-hours (for instance work in wood industry often require long absence
from home and living near the particular forest area). Such situation also contributes to
a situation when males in rural areas often are little socially active 27, depressed and
attempt escaping from realities in alcoholism.

During job interviews and at workplace men are less active in pursuing their right for
better job conditions and more flexible working hours28. Following the gender
stereotypes, men are more prone to be active in negotiating better wages. In practice
men often use the need to sustain family as an argument for higher wages. Thus the
strategy men tend to follow is to have better pay at the work-place but having less
flexible working hours. Both of these strategies lock them even more into breadwinner
position and move them away from more substantial engagement in family life. The
general cultural norms also make them much less likely to ask for (or expect) leave if
they need to take care for their family members: while it is expected from females that
they would „naturally‟ need more flexible time, some days off because of sick kids or
relatives, men need to prove such necessity and demonstrate „what would they do‟ with
this „free‟ time.

     Researchers from „Baltijas Stuciju Centrs‟ conclude that: in rural areas “Women are equally active in
     entrepreneurship but are superior in rural education, communication, innovation, social networking,
     and the work of non-governmental organisations. In these areas activity and achievements of women is
     far superior than that of men” (Zīverte, Linda, Šūmane, Sandra and Tisenkopfs, Talis „Sievietes biznesā
     un lauksaimniecībā‟ [Women in business and agriculture], p. 13)
     SKDS 2005. „Attieksme pret dzimumu līdztiesību darba attiecībās. Latvijas iedzīvotāju un darba devēju
     aptauja‟ [Attitude towards gender equality in work relations. Survey of inhabitants and employees in
     Latvia], p. 29.

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                            16

Following the patriarchal scale of values, the economic activities that are according to
common stereotypes associated with males (i.e. wage work) are usually valued as
superior to domestic non-wage work associated with female domain. Thus, for instance,
the Civil Law (paragraph 80) states that at divorce or after it, the divorced partner can
require resources from the other partner if the other partner has been the cause of
divorce and the resources are needed in order to maintain the previous life standart. In
practice this requirement is only associated with monetary income when attributed to
life standard of divorced wives. While commenting this section of the Civil Law, Tallija
and Ālere (2006) for instance conclude that “without the contribution of their wives men
would not be able to acquire adequate income and profit” (Tallija and Ālere 2006:23).
Thus the income and profit is attributed to husbands, while wives contribute to this
income with their domestic support. However, what counts at divorce in evaluating “the
previous life standard” is only the monetary income one was able to use while being
married. The domestic support is not being measured accordingly. Therefore it is
unlikely that men after divorce would demand compensation for the domestic support
although loosing this support directly influences their life standard after divorce. The
same could be attributed to families where men are not working wage-work and the
main bread-winner is a woman.

III.II Public space and infrastructure barriers
Current assessments of public space and infrastructure indicate that environment in
general is not friendly for working parents.

Kindergartens form a significant infrastructural system that allows reconciliation of work
and private life for parents who work. Children who do not attend kindergartens have to
be taken care of by non-working parents, other non-working family members or by
parents who can take work home (e.g., when having flexible work hours and possibility
to work from home). However, kindergarten structure is comparatively weakly
developed. Majority of kindergartens are publicly owned (municipality). There are also
some private kindergartens but because the state does not give full support to these
institutions, development of private kindergartens is stagnating. This indicates that on
the systemic level state relies on non-working care-takers (which usually are mothers or

Since 2002 kindergartens are included in the system of obligatory education but only
about 50% of children at pre-school age attend kindergartens29. The main problem is low
number of available places at kindergartens. Parents who wish their children to attend
kindergartens have to register their children in the waiting-lists soon after their birth.
Private kindergartens are much more available regarding their capacity, but their costs
are often prohibitive. According to the official statistics the medium monthly wage in
Latvia was 246 lats in 200530 while the cost of a private kindergarten is approximately 90
lats. Only one new municipal kindergarten was opened in Riga during the last few

     Dedze, Indra 2004. „Izglītības kaleideskops‟
     Dedze, Indra 2004. „Izglītības kaleideskops‟

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                       17

III.III Recent improvements

A new, more active role of fatherhood can be observed to become somehow more
widespread during the last 10 years. It is difficult, though, to say how substantial and
deep is the change because the above surveys demonstrate that stereotypical thinking
regarding gender roles regarding family/work life is still considerable. It is possible to
say, though, that some men do re-evaluate their relation to children and family. For
instance, family childbirth which was totally absent some 15 years ago is now becoming
a common (though by no means routine) practice. Mass media often celebrates men who
are participating actively in childcare. But there is virtually no „hard data‟ to sustain this
image at the moment. The general image of a man as a robust, little open to love and
more aggressive creature is still permeating general understanding of manhood and thus
also shaping the possibilities for men to reconcile family life and work in the way woman

The social results of such gender segregation are devastating for Latvian men. Data
shows that life expectancy for men in Latvia are 10 years less than for women. Men who
have been (by their own choice, social pressure or most likely – both) locked out of
family and deprived of fatherhood, are more likely to die early and/or live in poverty32.


It can be concluded that the legal framework in Latvia in general does
not form significant barriers for men to engage fully in family life and
childcare. However, the implementation of the state regulations
remains to be a problem area. Due to gender stereotypes that
associate strongly women with childcare and men with wage-work, the
men choose not to use all possibilities to combine work and family life
offered by the state. Creation of the stereotypes can be well observed
at the level of school and kindergarten education. The current
employment situation combined with the fact that women in Latvia in
general have better education, adds further reasons why men often
find themselves locked in the bread-winner position which requires
them to sacrifice greater engagement in family life.Bibliography

     15.4% of single women can be considered to experience poverty while for single men this indicator rises
     to 23.6% (UNDP 1999 „Dzimums un tautas attīstība Latvijā‟ [Gender and national development in
     Latvia], p. 12)

Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                              18

„Attieksme pret dzimumu līdztiesību darba attiecībās. Latvijas iedzīvotāju un darba
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„Dzimums un tautas attīstība Latvijā‟ [Gender and national development in Latvia],
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Dedze, Indra 2004 „Izglītības kaleideskops‟     

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Men Equal Men Different
Men in Latvian Public Environment                                                                                 19

Valsts   ģimenes        politikas       rīcības      plāns.      [State      Family       Policy      Action   Plan]:

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Men Equal Men Different

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