Gender Equality in Slovakia

Slovakia has in the field of gender equality effective domestic legislation and it is bounded as the signatory to international conventions as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention (1999), both ratified by Slovakia. As mentioned above, gender equality is also one of the principles of the European Union. It is enshrined in the Treaty establishing the European Community (the Treaty of Amsterdam). Nevertheless, inequality in status between men and women persist in almost all areas of private and public life.

Gender inequality in employment, but also in other areas in Slovakia persists due to a number of mutually affecting factors. These include e.g. traditional division of gender roles, poor knowledge of own rights and gender equality agenda, the lack of affirmative measures, but also due to the lack of social services that would allow a better balance between work and family life. Below are listed for illustration the most notable problems and gender differences regarding the impact of HP EO.

In women’s employment situation in Slovakia is comparable with EU countries, although it is affected by some more specific factors such as regional differences and a few part time jobs. The economic activity rate for men reached the 2009 level of 68.1% (2005 68.4%), women 50.3% (2005 51.3%). Thus, the gender gap was 17.8% and its tendency is rather increasing.[1] An employment rate of women aged 15-64 years in 2009 reached a value of 52.8% and 67.6% for men.[2] The gender gap in employment rates between men and women reached 14.8% against women. Female unemployment in 2008 was at 1.5% higher than for men[3]; this difference probably due to the economic crisis and an increase in male unemployment has fallen by 0.5%. The increase in long-term unemployment is also reflected in the composition of the unemployed women and men according to the duration of unemployment. While in 1996 unemployment accounted for more than 12 months 45.8% of total unemployment of women and 51.7% of total male unemployment rate, by 2007 this proportion increased to 69.4% in women and 72.3% in men.[4] The biggest differences are in employment in the retirement age; this trend reflects the particular problems of women aged over 45 at the labour market.[5]

The employment of women and men in the service sector Slovakia lags behind the EU-27: in 2006, the proportion of women working in services for the EU-27 share 81.5% and 58.1% men.[6]

Women at the labour market in Slovakia are confronted with the horizontal and vertical segregation. In areas such as health, social services and education women constitute about 80% of the workforce; in the government sector 70%. Conversely, in the private sector with usually higher wages, women represent only 41% of all employed. Gender differences are most notable in the business, where among entrepreneurs only one in four is a woman.[7] Significant differences still remain in salaries between men and women. Average gross monthly wage in 2009 stood at 913 EUR for men; while for women only at 682 Eur.[8] Despite the very good level of education of women (in Slovakia, even higher than for men) women do not attain earnings comparable to men, since education in “typically female fields” is valued less. Stereotypical perceptions and prejudices about “work appropriate for women” are also reflected in the choice of courses.

In the employers practice in Slovakia, the unequal treatment unfolding of parenthood, particularly motherhood, is widespread. Changes in family status of employees and childbirth bring in many cases behaviour change by the employers. A large group of them follows the family situation of their employees, makes problems after returning from parental leave or have prejudices against female employees – mothers.[9] It is followed (although there are also other reasons) with the low representation of women in senior positions and senior management, which means limited possibilities for women to participate in the decision making. Similarly situation appears in the participation of women in public life and politics. Low participation of women leads to the fact that women have a limited opportunity to influence strategic decision making and planning, which has ultimately an impact also on their living situation.[10]

Mentioned problems result in a significant difference in salaries of women and men, which translates into gender gap in social security in retirement age. Standard of living of women at retirement age is greatly reduced and it reinforces the feminization of poverty in this age group.[11] The gender pay gap is significantly higher in the private sector. The average hourly wage of women in non-business sphere is above the level 80% of male wages, in the business it was about 75% of the wages of men.[12]

For childcare and care of other family members continue to be responsible predominantly the women because of persistent gender stereotypes. Very few fathers take parental leave. Low proportion of men in domestic work and the missing public and private services (or their high prices) prevent many women from returning to the labour market.[13] Since most of the responsibility for the care of dependent family members in Slovakia still falls to women, their growing role in the world of paid work means that they are increasingly confronted with the double burden. Many women provide care to older family members without adequate equipment or services available.[14]

Important in this view are the consequences of the crisis, which we believe will continue to deepen. The economic crisis appears to strengthen some discriminatory practices. Some employers use the crisis as an excuse to abuse staff, especially women, who are more willing to work in insecure and precarious conditions for less pay and without social security. According to the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights, the economic crisis reduced sensitivity of victims to sexual harassment. The priority for the parties concerned is to obtain suitable employment, or maintain it; they are therefore more willing to accept discrimination.[15] Consequences of the economic crisis are also seen in changes in employment patterns, for example, increased job insecurity and reduced social protection, which have a negative impact mainly on the poorer population groups. Pressure to ensure a household income means that women, in particular, decide to accept work well below their level of education and qualification.[16]

Another serious issue is violence against women, which is despite of quite favourable legislative adjustments still current and serious problem. Recent research by the Institute for Labour and Family Research in 2008 showed that “every fifth adult woman who is currently with a partner experienced his violent behaviour. The incidence of violent behaviour from ex-partners is even higher: from adult women 27.9% experienced violent behaviour by the former partner.[17]

Generally the women in Slovakia are exposed to discrimination in much higher levels than men. Gender discrimination is up to twice as often directed towards women and discriminatory practices in family circumstances related primarily to the women. Women in Slovakia face not only “gender neutral” forms of discrimination (such as discrimination on grounds of age, disability or ethnicity) and increased discrimination based on gender, but also other forms, based on parental responsibilities (childcare is still a mostly perceived among employers as a matter of women).[18]

[1] Statistic Office of the SR, Infostat: Economic activity of population according sexes in thousands, proportion of  activity in %    (1994 – 2009)

[2] Statistic Office of the SR, Infostat: Proportion of employment according the age groups and sexes in %, year 2009.

[3] Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family SR (accessed 8.10.2010)

[4] Filadelfiová, J.: Background analysis of priority areas for the preparation of the National Strategy for Gender Equality. MLSAsF, Bratislava, 2008.

[5] Bútorová Z. (ed.). Here and now: Probes into the Lives of Women 45+. Institut for Public Affairs, 2007.

[6] Filadelfiová, J.: Background analysis of priority areas for the preparation of the National Strategy for Gender Equality., MLSAsF, Bratislava, 2008, pg.28.

[7] Pietruchová, O.:  A Handbook for equality of opportunities in projects co-financed by the EU. 11 steps to equal opportunities and gender equality in project preparation and management. Programming period 2007 – 2013MLSAsF, Bratislava, 2009, pg.23.

[8] Statistical Office: Structure of average gross monthly earnings and average net monthly wage in 2009 by sex.

[9] Filadelfiová, J.: Background analysis of priority areas for the preparation of the National Strategy for Gender Equality MLSAsF, Bratislava, 2008.

[10] Filadelfiová, J.: Background analysis of priority areas for the preparation of the National Strategy for Gender Equality. MLSAsF, Bratislava, 2008, pg. 32.

[11] para 10

[12] para 10

[13] para 10

[14] para 10

[15] SITA (2009): „Number of victims of harassment does not decline, the priority is work. “Press conference of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights.

[16] International Labour Office (ILO,2009): „Gender equality at the heart of decent work.“ Geneva, 2009

[17] Bodnárová, B. – Filadelfiová, J. – Holubová, B. Representative research of apearance and experiences of women’s violence against women (VAW) in Slovakia. Institute for Work and Family, 2008. (

[18] Filadelfiová, J.: Background analysis of priority areas for the preparation of the National Strategy for Gender Equality. MLSAsF, Bratislava, 2008, pg. 102.