|dc.description.abstract||Quite early in the 1990s, concerns were expressed for the situation of women in the post-socialist countries in Eastern Europe, in particular with regards to access to the labour market. As the former regime had been committed to the full employment of both men and women, it seemed obvious that women would lose out in the competition in new labour markets. In addition, social provision designed to alleviate the conflict between work and family deteriorated. In most research from the early and mid 1990s, one of the central presumptions was that women would be the first to become unemployed, and would as a consequence of this be the losers of the transition.
In the latter half of the 1990s, case studies emerged showing the surprising result that women, as compared to men, had not been pushed out of the labour market, in several of the countries in question. It was suggested that women had retained their relatively strong position in the labour market due to the nature of economic restructuring, which hit hardest in the male dominated parts of the industry, in addition to a growth in typically female occupations in the service sector.
This dissertation aims to illuminate some further possible explanations for women s stronger than expected position in the labour market through an explorative study of the Latvian case. In addition to the opportunity for women s continued employment, as argued in former studies, the dissertation examines the relationship between work and family, and family change, in particular falling fertility rates as a potential contributing factor in sustaining women s high level of participation in the labour market. Dramatically falling fertility rates have been a trait in most of the post-socialist countries. This study focuses on women in Latvia as actors choosing between the two arenas of work and family in where to invest their time, within structural constraints.
The study first deals with the opportunity structure in Latvia with regards to access to the labour market and the combination of work and family. Changes in the labour market are shown to be similar to what has been identified in other East European countries. Restructuring did initially hit hardest in men s jobs, reflected in the higher unemployment rates of men in the early and mid 1990s. Further, the largest growth in employment sectors has been in service occupations, creating many jobs that are seen as typically feminine. State provision for families with children is also examined. A concern in former research on Eastern Europe was that the closing of kindergartens in particular would make work and family harder to combine. While this has also been the case in Latvia, the decline in provision of financial resources through family benefits, combined with low wage levels, has increased the necessity for women to work at a paid job, as most families cannot live on a single salary. Consequently, the opportunities for most women to choose a home-based existence are scarce.
At the individual level, the necessity to work is reflected in the high labour force participation and employment rates of women, which are very similar to those of men. It is further shown that women work predominantly full time, and that this is also the case for women with children. This indicates that adjustments are not mainly made in the labour market to accommodate the conflicting demands of work and family on time.
Finally, it is argued that women s relatively strong position in the labour market can be seen in connection with the falling fertility rates in Latvia in the 1990s. Many people have chosen to postpone or forego having children, as birth numbers and birth rates have declined by half during the decade. This means that there has been a substantial decline in the number of women with small children, and consequently fewer women who confront the conflict between work and family. As a result there are also fewer people who compete over the use of public childcare facilities. This is reflected in a large increase in the share of children attending kindergartens from 1994 to 1999, entirely accounted for by the drop in birth numbers. Falling fertility rates may thus be taken as strengthening women s opportunity to enter into the labour market at the aggregate level.
On background of the processes outlined above it is suggested that the economic and political processes initially believed to cause women to drop out of the labour market in favour of a traditional housewife role, have in fact been more influential in family change, in particular in terms of falling fertility rates. This, in addition to the characteristics of economic restructuring, may have contributed to women s relatively high participations rates in the labour market.||nor