Enlargement, Gender and Governance (EGG) EU Framework 5, Project No: HPSE-CT-2002-00115 Work Package 4 (Executive Summary): Implementing the EU Equality Acquis LATVIA 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. 2 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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