As countries brace themselves for a severe economic slowdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, earlier crises, such as that which followed the political transformation of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, may serve as important points of reference. While of course different in many ways, the changes that accompanied the transition affected society as a whole, but also had heterogenous effects across different groups. One particular dimension – also discussed in relation to the current COVID-19 crises – is that of relative costs and benefits for men and women respectively. In this brief we re-examine one specific element of this, namely the developments of gender gaps in the labour market and social norms related to labour market activity over time and across countries, starting in the years before transition.
Similarly to the current economic crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the socio-economic developments of the post-transition period left women in Poland in a less favourable economic position relative to men. Here we discuss two main sources of gender inequalities in the context of the Polish labour market – the gender gap in employment and pay. Though a certain improvement in this regard can be observed over the last 30 years, significant inequalities between women and men remain today and may have substantial impact in the future, especially for differences in poverty risk in old age.