Women's Employment and Union Dissolution in a Changing Socio-Economic Context in Russia

By Muszynska, Magdalena | Demographic Research, January-June 2008 | Go to article overview

Women's Employment and Union Dissolution in a Changing Socio-Economic Context in Russia


Muszynska, Magdalena, Demographic Research


Abstract

This study examines the effect of women's employment on the risk of union disruption within the centrally planned economy and transition period in Russia. The empirical part is based on two retrospective surveys conducted in Russia in 2004/2005, covering the years 1967-2004. These are analyzed using hazard regression. The results show that within two periods (1967-1991 and 1992-2004) the risk of union dissolution was similar among women who worked and those who did not work. No differences were found between various employment groups during socialism. In the transition period, however, a variation in the risk of union dissolution among groups of working women existed. The biggest differences are related to company ownership type, with women who worked in private enterprises having the highest risk of union dissolution.

1. Introduction

The effect of women's employment on union stability in Western economies has been discussed by many authors, yet few studies on this topic have been undertaken in the socialist or transition economies of Eastern Europe. Due to its historically high divorce rates (Council of Europe, 2004), Russia is an interesting country to study the relationship between those phenomena in two economically distinctive periods. Despite the high prevalence of divorce, its determinants in Russia are poorly understood. It has been studied mostly on the macro level (Andreev and Scherbov, 1996; Avdeev and Monnier, 2000; Becker and Hemley, 1998; Darsky and Scherbov, 1995; Mazur, 1969; Scherbov and van Vianen, 2001, 2004). Studies on the individual level concentrated on the consequences rather than on the determinants of divorce (e.g. Festy et al., 2003; Prokofieva and Terskikh, 1998). So far, to our knowledge, no study has been conducted for Russia using individual level data to discuss women's employment as a determinant of union dissolution.

The advantage of studies based on Eastern Europe lies in a unique setting that cannot be achieved by any inter-country comparisons: rapid change in structural conditions in a relatively stable cultural context. First, in the last decade in Russia the situation in the labor market changed dramatically from one with a relatively homogenous level of earnings and guaranteed employment, to one characterized by high income disparities and unemployment. Second, with the economic changes, the purchasing power of the average family income declined significantly, resulting in a decline in living conditions. The existence of these two distinct economic regimes in Russia gives an empirical possibility to study the influence of socio-economic context on the relationship between women's involvement in paid work and union instability. In addition, the almost universal participation of women in the labor market in Russia and their relatively low level of earnings, compared toWestern economies, give rise to the question: Can the mechanism describing the effect of women's employment on union instability that is characteristic for Western countries, be generalized to the Russian context?

2. Background of the study

In the first part of this section we present selected theories concerning the effect of women's employment on the risk of union dissolution in the Western socio-economic context as described by other authors. Reviewing theoretical foundations concerning the individual decision making process, we group them according to two channels of influence: the effect of women's employment on the desire to dissolve a union and its effect on the opportunity to dissolve a union. This classification was originally proposed by Ogburn and Nimkoff (1955). The first group of theories concentrates on the effect of work on the quality of a union and the satisfaction derived by an individual from being in a union, whereas the second group concentrates on the fact that women's independent income from employment could make it possible for women to leave unhappy relationships. …

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