Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 10:10:52 -0500 (CDT)
From: “Workers World” <>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: East Europe women: Downhill under capitalism
Article: 79417
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

Via Workers World News Service

UNICEF on East Europe's women: It's been downhill under capitalism

By Teresa Gutierrez, Worker's World, 22 September 1999

On Sept. 22, UNICEF issued a report on the situation for women and girls in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The report, titled “Women in Transition,” documents how the setbacks to socialism have affected the 150 million women and 50 million girls who live in Central and Eastern Europe.

The study found that the status of women has eroded dramatically with the introduction of the capitalist market into these countries.

Women face higher unemployment and lower real income than men do. Access to childcare has been reduced. Education and health services have deteriorated.

The study found that more teenage women are having children. Abuse of drugs and alcohol is on the rise. The level of anti-woman violence—from domestic abuse to rape— has also increased.

And life expectancy for women has shortened in 16 of the 27 countries studied.

According to “Women in Transition” some 26 million jobs have been lost in the region since 1989. Women held 14 million of the lost jobs.

Furthermore, the new jobs being created in the private sector—which are better paying—are held mainly by men. Women work more in the public sector, where jobs are scarcer.

More women are being forced to work part-time. Some hold full-time jobs that exist only on paper and pay marginal wages.

The report made some comparisons about the status of women in these countries during socialism. It recognized that women's situation overall was significantly better before than in the current period.

In the political arena, for example, women's participation in parliament dropped dramatically after the first so-called democratic elections. Where women were once well represented, today the average proportion of women in parliaments is less than 10 percent. In some countries—such as Kyrgyzstan—it is as low as 1 percent.


The title of the report suggests that the status of women is in transition. But the question must be asked: a transition to what?

The mouthpieces for imperialism try to portray capitalism as the favored system for the entire planet. They have championed the defeat of socialism in Eastern Europe as a victory, especially for democracy, they say.

What is left out of the discussion are the basic human rights to a job, health care, education, union wages and so forth.

Reports on conditions for women right here in the richest country in the world prove that women in the former socialist countries can only expect more poverty and exploitation.

For example, according to a Summer 1999 report of the Commonwealth Fund, “despite a robust economy and low unemployment rates, more women lacked health insurance in 1998 than in 1993.”

One of four women under age 65, or 21 million women, do not have health care in this country. The figure rises for low-income women; more than one-third—35 percent—are uninsured.

The minimum wage, now $5.15 an hour, has declined in purchasing power over the past 30 years. For women that is a real blow. Over 60 percent of the workers who currently earn the minimum wage are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Social conditions for women in Eastern Europe today show that the only way to turn back the tide of reaction is to fight for the right of women and all workers to control their own destiny by first controlling the means of production.