Russia's Second Shift: Is Housework Hurting Women's Wages?

By Deloach, Stephen B.; Hoffman, Annie L. | Atlantic Economic Journal, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Russia's Second Shift: Is Housework Hurting Women's Wages?


Deloach, Stephen B., Hoffman, Annie L., Atlantic Economic Journal


Introduction

For nearly five decades, postwar programs in the Soviet Union offered women equal education and employment opportunities. Since all able-bodied men and women were required by law to be employed, women, not surprisingly, composed over half of the workforce. By the 1970s, women actually had marginally more education on average than men. But, even in a system that was aimed towards equality, women still earned only 70 percent of male wages [Newell, 1996; Brainerd, 1998].

The Soviet Union's industrial strategy left little room for advancements in household time saving devices [Lapidus, 1993, p. 139]. This, combined with social norms, did not allow Russian women the freedom to substitute time between traditional household duties and formal sector work in the labor market. According to Bodrova [1993], this pressure to do both jobs led to a decrease in women's job commitment. Bodrova argues that this was an important factor in explaining women's lack of advancement in the labor market and lower wages. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the rapid transition towards a market economy, there is good reason to think this effect might decrease. As women become freer to substitute between formal sector work and household work, the relative importance of this effect in explaining the wage gap may be diminished. (1) In other words, Russian women remaining in the workforce may be, or be perceived to be, relatively more committed now than a decade ago. In addition, the increased avai lability of time saving devices in the home could, to the extent that they are affordable, lead to an increase in women's ability to substitute more time and effort towards their paid job.

Existing studies of the Russian labor market during the post-soviet era have focused on traditional factors to explain the persistent gender-wage differential. The most recent studies in this area [Newell and Reilly, 1996; Ogloblin, 1999; Glinskaya and Mroz, 2000] use data from the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS). (2, 3) Whereas Ogloblin [1999] estimates nearly all of the gap is attributable to occupational and industrial employment segregation, none of these studies find that much is explained by observable, differences in worker attributes. Newell and Reilly [1996] emphasize that Russian women fail to advance at the same rate as men. While Glinskaya and Mroz [2000] find that occupational segregation accounts for the biggest single share of the explainable gap, they also introduce evidence that additional, unobservable factors such as entrepreneurial skills are particularly important determinants of wages in post-Soviet Russia.

With little evidence that the gender-wage gap in Russia can be explained by differences in worker characteristics, the goal of this paper is to test whether time spent on household production is responsible for any of the gender-disparity in wages. While the effect of time spent on household work on wages has yet to be explored for the Russian labor market, it has been examined recently for the U.S. by Hersch [1991] and Hersch and Stratton [1996]. (4) Following this literature and using data from Phase II of the RLMS (December 1994 through October 1996), the effect of housework on hourly wages is estimated using both ordinary and two stage least squares with a correction for sample selection bias.

The Labor Market Experience of Russian Women: Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras

The labor market conditions under which Russian men and women worked were dramatically different. Unlike their male counterparts, Russian women were expected to perform dual roles in Soviet society [Lapidus, 1993, p. 139].

"Female employment was encouraged by measures that accorded women equal rights with men, expanded their educational opportunities and professional training, and shifted some of the additional costs of female labor from the individual enterprise to the larger society. …

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