Implementing equality acquis in Latvia by tbw7A7


									                  Enlargement, Gender and Governance (EGG)
                EU Framework 5, Project No: HPSE-CT-2002-00115

                       Work Package 4 (Executive Summary):
                       Implementing the EU Equality Acquis

                       By Ausma Cimdina, University of Latvia

During the pre-89 period there were no special institutions responsible for implementing
gender equality. The Labour Code of the USSR ensured equal treatment for both
genders, equal pay for equal work, and maternity leave during 8 weeks before and 8
weeks after the delivery paid at the 100% level of previous salary. Equal treatment at
the workplace as a special issue was not widely discussed. The main difficulty for
employed women under the Soviet regime was not lack of equality but poor housing,
very scarce services, and a shortage of goods including those for women’s hygiene and
for infants. It made women’s ‘double burden’ at the job and in the home much harder
than in the so-called free world. During the transition to a free market economy these
difficulties in everyday life were eliminated at least for those with a high income.

Before the end of the twentieth century the term and expression “work of equal value”
was not applied. The notion is not quite clear and popular in Latvia even now, though
in some documents on gender equality (i.e., Handbook on Gender Mainstreaming for
Municipalities) the criteria for comparison of the work’s value are recorded.

Government action to promote the EU Equality acquis in Latvia is maintained by the
Ministry of Welfare: its Gender Equality department has two staff and the council of the
same title includes representatives of women NGOs. These bodies prepared the
“Conception on the Promotion of Gender Equality,” which was accepted by the
Government in 2002, and the corresponding plan of action up to 2006. Judges in Latvia
are regularly well informed about all EU legislation, laws and the new corrections. No
doubts that the experience of Nordic countries and the EU equality acquis helped a lot
in the process, especially for raising awareness among ruling bodies and even creating a
special unit on the subject in the Ministry of Welfare. Nevertheless, home and family
have been viewed up to now as mainly the women’s domain and gender equality is far
less advanced there than in public spheres.

An account of the necessity to raise birth rate but not gender equality in Latvia recently
resulted in proposal supported by the Ministry of Welfare and the Government to
enlarge childcare allowance, making it proportional (70%) to the mother’s or father’s
wages during the previous year or to the minimum wage for unemployed parents. This
so-called “mother’s wage” is to be paid only for those who are not working full-time,
which means an interruption of the career and not paying insurance premiums.

The Confederation of Latvian Employers has prepared and distributed a Handbook on
Gender Mainstreaming for companies’ personal managers, recording kinds of direct and
indirect discrimination as well as methods to avoid them. The burden of proof in sex
discrimination cases since a 2004 correction in the Labour Law lies upon the employer.
In the pre-89 period there were not even discussions of the issue.

It is rather problematic to evaluate the changes in real gender equality that have taken
place in Latvia over the last 10-15 years. The educational activities of women since the
pre-89 period are constantly higher than those of men; the employment level during the
transition to a free market economy has diminished for both sexes but the difference is
rather the same; as before there are not enough places in daycare centres, which limits
women’s social and political activities; the average wage of women also continue to be
less than that of men, partly because of employment in less paid branches of the
economy and less representation at leading posts. The latter is caused mainly by
women’s responsibility for family and home. The eventual minimising of the burden of
unpaid housework could be observed by regular time use surveys; the latest one was
carried out in 2004 and the results are not yet available for comparison with the
previous one done in 1996.

One may conclude that the enforcement of all the preconditions for gender equality,
especially at home, lags behind the awareness about it; but the latter is to be promoted
as a precondition for the political participation and representation of women.

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