Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Balancing Work, Family Life, and Retirement in Russia: Part 2

Alla, our Elder Economic Security Initiative intern continues her series on Russia's economic security, focusing this week on women.

II. Women In Today's Russia

After 2000, when transition to capitalism was more or less complete, and Russia’s economic situation improved, Russian women began choosing to have children somewhat later in life in order to start building a career first. Surveys show that modern Russian women overwhelmingly prefer combining their career with raising children than concentrating on just one or the other. Therefore, in recent years, the number of working mothers of young children has consistently grown in Russia. This is, especially prevalent in big cities such as Moscow where women are highly educated. An estimated 57% of Moscow City mothers of preschool age children have at least some college education.

Working mothers still enjoy strong protection under the law, which guarantees partially paid 18-month childbirth-related leave (extendable up to 3 years of unpaid leave). Sadly, not all employers follow the law. Russian women often face discrimination and negative stereotypes at the workplace, comparable to that experienced by women over the course of many decades in the United States. The social institutions established by Soviet system that protected working mothers are now in decay, and there are very few new institutions to replace them.
The category of working mothers has become as crucial in Russia as it is in the United States. However, while employment laws are more generous to women in Russia, the actual mechanisms for implementation of these laws are far less developed in Russia as compared to the United States.

Even so, more ought to be done to assure workplaces are flexible and responsive to working mother’s needs, such as through paid family leave and part-time or flexible work options, in both Russia and the U.S. Making sure working women are able to balance work and family responsibilities is critical to assuring their economic security over the life span. Women are likely to cycle in and out of the workplace due to care-giving responsibilities, lending to fewer hours worked, lower wages and less opportunities for career growth and mobility. Promoting work life balance and economic security across the generations goes hand in hand.

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