Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Women's Employment or Return to "Family Values" in Central-Eastern Europe

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Women's Employment or Return to "Family Values" in Central-Eastern Europe

Article excerpt

BARBARA LOBODZINSKA *

Socialism in Central-Eastern Europe reinforced only the formerly existing traditional patriarchal system by allowing men to run governments and by fortifying their leading positions at home and work. The basic socialist legal foundations claimed "equality for all", without supplying the system with functional application of a related legislation. As a reaction to the previous socialist constraints and pressures in the former Soviet Bloc countries, a strong new push toward removing women from gainful employment and toward - so called - "traditional family values" can be seen. Even some women are opting now to be financially supported by their men, to stay at home and to concentrate on care of their children. Men become more eager to elbow out female competitors from the shrinking employment opportunities. Unemployment is a new, post-socialist, phenomenon. Previously, workers had job security resulting from the full employment social policy. Getting away from the "cradle to grave" state protection for all citizens, the new governments are trying to "save" this part of expenditures that under socialism was spent on subsidies for social and family policies. To analyze women's family and employment roles combined with their attitudes toward these roles, under the new conditions, calls for a review of the previous system. Many facets of the former strategies and ways of thinking are still functioning. The former system created numerous parallels in the outcome of social institutions and social relationships. research studies conducted before and after 1989 in one of the examined countries can illustrate a pattern in most of the region.

WOMEN'S EMPLOYMENT BEFORE AND DURING THE POST-SOCIALIST TRANSITION PERIOD

Employment

In spite of ideological, legislative and social policy efforts to secure positions of equality for men and women in the socialist societies, an extensive discrimination against women persisted, manifested in the concentration of women in lower priority sectors of the economy, in lower posts occupied, and in lower wages (Beyer, 1992; Fuszara, 1993; Lobodzinska, 1978 and 1983; Paukert, 1991; Putnam, 1990; Reszke,1991-a and 1991-b; Sokolowska, 1963; Sziraczki and Windell, 1992; Waluk, 1963, and others). Marxist doctrine implemented in socialist countries confronted the task of including women in economic activities as equal partners with men. The outcome was basically on a pledge level, influencing citizens to think that a potential for equal opportunities existed. Studies on equality principles in socialism indicate that family allowances and benefits for employees were taken for granted. They were not considered a privilege but a revenue added to entitlements stemming from employment. They were regarded as inherent obligations owed by the State to its citizens: as premises of the system (Bromberek, 1987; Ferge, 1976; Flakierski, 1992; Koralewicz-Zebik, 1984; S. Nowak, 1966; S. Nowak, 1981). The right to work - and to entitlements (e.g., free health care, free education, job security, paid retirement, paid vacations, protection of under-age employees, etc.) - was guaranteed to all citizens, with considerable additional advantages for working women and mothers. Thus, the present departure from the previous gains is now perceived as termination of beneficial advantages in labor relationships. Under the conditions of political and economic instability, and the labor market conditions now considered as worse, the old survival technique comes in handy and the preservation of the family becomes an undisputed priority for women. Resentment against the capitalist market economic reforms and their political promoters is the attitude of the majority. This has resulted in the recent return of the communists to power in Poland, Lithuania and Hungary 1993-4).

Due to the full-employment policy under socialism, women made up between 40-50% of the entire labor force (see, table I). …

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