Women’s specific situation in Lithuania
Women make up 52.8% of the population, but their involvement in political life and public administration is very law. The last municipal election showed a decrease in women’s participation in public administration: women members of local governmental councils decreased from 22% in 1997 to 17.6% in year 2000. The statistics show that since independence the number of women in Parliament (Seimas) has not been more than 20%. Currently, only 3.6% of mayors are women and there is only one woman as a minister. There is low women activity within political parties. From 28 political parties, only three parties have women leaders. During the last local government (municipalities) elections, only 10-20% of women were included on each party’s election list in the first ten positions.
In the highest level of Officials (Level A-decision makers), only 33.4% are women.
In Lithuania, education is one of the spheres in which women’s accomplishments have been tremendous. It is notable that women put much effort into acquiring the highest level of education as possible, even more than men. Nevertheless, we have some problems in this sphere:
Unemployment is a major problem in our society, especially for women. The official labour exchange data is not relevant to real life. In addition to the official unemployment rate, there is hidden unemployment and informal employment. It is important to note that in Lithuania, the gap between survey data and labour exchange data on unemployment rate is the one of the widest in Europe. The real unemployment rate is at least twice higher than the official rate (approximately 20%). The women’s unemployment situation is worse than men, especially for certain groups. For example, even official statistics shows that among unemployed aged 30-49, women make up 55,9% in compare with 50.2% of men in the same age group, among unemployed aged 50-54, women make up 11,9% in compare with 8,5% of men in the same age group. Additionally, better educated women than men are unemployed. For instance, among unemployed women with college and university education make up 24,4% in compare with 15,9% for men. The main forms of discrimination against women in the labour market include discrimination by age, difference in salary (men’s salaries are 1.4 times higher than women’s), inequality in management positions, and discrimination against young women returning from maternity leave. Although illegal, job advertisements contain sex and age discrimination. Unfortunately, the Law of Equal Opportunities does not prohibit discrimination by age.
Access to free re-training for the unemployed is very limited because of lack of funds and the existing bad practice in implementing the law of supporting unemployed people, which is ambiguous. Very often, the labour exchange office requires in advance a three-part agreement among the labour exchange office, the future employer and an unemployed person who needs training. To have this three-part agreement is not strongly stressed in the law; unfortunately, the labour exchange office requires such an agreement in order for the unemployed to join free training courses relevant to the current labour market demands, such as new information technology, accounting, business administration, etc. Because of existing age discrimination practices, it is nearly impossible to obtain this agreement in advance. This undemocratic restriction makes access to modern free courses impossible even for unemployed women over 40 years old and those who have been unemployed for a long time (more than two years).
Unemployment benefits are very low (about US$ 40-60) and only for six months. For very many women, especially those over 45 years of age, single women, and the long-term unemployed, unemployment is not only a psychological problem, it is a matter of physical survival. Unemployment and a poor economic situation lead to poverty, prostitution, depression, and even suicide. The links between unemployment and psychological problems are often raised in discussion with unemployed and socially disadvantaged groups. Labour exchange offices usually organise only vocational training or retraining courses (long-term courses), but there is a great demand of the short and even non-formal courses helping to increase self-esteem and obtain job-seeking skills. In the situation of lack of funds, the short-term courses can increase the access for training and will be very effective.
As a consequence of unemployment, many women become active in the black market (informal employment). In this case, they lose their rights to social security and health insurance. All in all, unemployment leads to the feminisation of poverty. We can say that unemployment became a type of social (structural) violence against women. Unfortunately, we do not have the appropriate research of all kinds of discrimination and violence against women in the labour market.
The national government and municipalities do not pay enough attention to solving the problems of the unemployed.
Until 1996, women made up more than half of the workforce. Between 1996 and 1998, their share in the labour market fell slightly, and in the 1998 reached 47,5%. The number of working women over the age 45 also decreased.
Women enter the labour market with a higher level of education that man do, but this does not adequately determine their position in it.
Statistical data show that in no economic sector do women earn more that men. In 1998 women earned an average of 77,2% the amount earned by men.