Institutional Change and Gender Inequalities at Labour Market Entry: A Comparison of Estonia, Russia, and East and West Germany

Yuliya Kosyakova, Ellu Saar, Johanna Dämmrich


Our study investigates how gender inequalities in job opportunities evolved during communist and post-communist times in former state-socialist countries. Theoretical arguments (mainly based on studies referring to Western countries) led to the expectation of a surge in gender inequalities in these countries after the collapse of communism. Empirically, we explore the gender gap in job authority upon labour market entry by using life-history data from Russia, Estonia, and East Germany, with West Germany serving as a control case. The selection of countries was motivated primarily by the availability of rich life-history data, covering four decades of (post-) state socialism but also by divergences in institutional set-ups in the course of transition from state socialism to a liberalised market economy. Our findings yield four major results. First, accounting for education and the branch of economy, women were not disadvantaged during Soviet times; instead, we have even found evidence of a slight female advantage in Estonia and East Germany. Thus, our findings mirror the communist regime’s effectiveness in equalising women’s and men’s opportunities at work. Second, in the pre-collapse decade, the advantage of women in terms of job authority decreased in East Germany and Estonia, whereas in Russia, women fell behind men. Third, with the Soviet Union collapse, a remarkable female disadvantage emerged in all formerly state socialist countries under scrutiny. In addition, we observe a growing gender gap in West Germany in the same period. The latter result strengthens the conclusion that times of economic liberalisation may go hand-in-hand with increasing gender inequalities.


Gender inequality; job authority; labour market entry; comparative research; institutional change; Russia; Estonia; Germany

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