Economic empowerment of women – actors in social change – by IRINA POCKOVA
Economic empowerment of women is the key for economic growth and reduction of poverty; it also affects the overall prosperity of the country. Greater participation of women in politics, in business, as well as the greater representation in civil society is crucial for overcoming the divisions within the society and creating a better life for all, for women and men. Women constitute half of the world population, but are not equally represented and do not share the economic power, even though we all know they are active stakeholders and carriers of social change, that they influence on politics, as well as economic and social progress, peace and security.
The economic crisis in the South-eastern Europe is felt by all layers of society, but women are those who are most affected by the crisis that brings them to a disadvantaged position. They are those who are hit first and have an unequal position in the labour market, easier to get fired from work, do not have equal treatment when searching for job, the labour market and therefore are forced to work and accept underpaid jobs.
Economic sector in which female labour force is represented better (textile industry, leather industry, etc.) is the least appreciated and least paid.
One of the major goals of the society is to improve the economic status of women. Better economic status of women is a prerequisite for greater representation and participation of women in social life, independence and security, as well as social security. If women are underrepresented in the development, it means that their great potential is not utilized. Therefore, women should have an important role and contribution. In this sense, regional cooperation of women in all sectors and all levels is the key to improving women’s status, rapid regional development and contribution to acceleration of the European integration process.
The importance of greater involvement of women in society and their promotion to higher positions in the structure of power and decision making, including their participation in politics, can contribute to creation of stability in the society and strengthening of economy. Legal frameworks and guidance enabling improvement of women’s rights and gender equality are established in Macedonia in the last 15 years. However, the actual advancement of women in all areas is of greater importance.
Political and economic inequality is present, and we can say that it is a result of male dominance in all spheres of life. However, it should be viewed more as a result of still existing patriarchal and traditional attitudes, stereotypes that are still present in the society, lack of funds and institutional support, which is present and dominant in Macedonia, where most of the population lives in rural and underdeveloped areas.
Findings of several studies show that many women in Macedonia face with uncertainty and poorly paid jobs on daily basis. Although the data show that Macedonian women are better educated than men, men are dominant in holding the higher positions in economy.
Recent study published on March 8th 2012, using statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics, reveals that there are high rates of economic inactivity among women in Macedonia, more than 50% of working age women who are not even trying to get a job, while less than one-quarter of women are employers, and only one quarter of them receives a salary higher than 655 Euros.
The unemployment rate for women is 29.4% and it is significantly lower compared with that of men, which is 47%. This percentage remains unchanged for a long time, because of unstable economic conditions in the country.
The tendency for a new development process at regional and local level, increased presence of women in both the economy and political life can be seen in Macedonia.
Local authorities are trying to facilitate development, simplify business conditions in order to create conditions for equal and equitable access for both women and men, to create conditions for self-employment and enable the economic security and stability, and prevent rural-urban migration and very often emigration of young and educated people from the country.
Member of the Steering Committee, Regional Women Lobby, SEE