Disparity between awareness of and compliance with gender equality

Extensive research into gender equality in Latvia – conducted between July 2005 and January 2007 – has revealed a clear horizontal segregation in the labour market in terms of men and women being more prominent in certain occupations and economic sectors. Features of vertical segregation were also found, in that fewer women attained management positions. Gender role stereotypes had a considerable influence on labour market segregation.

‘Gender equality aspects in the labour market’ is one of 13 projects initiated by the Ministry of Welfare (Labklājības ministrija, LM) in the framework of the National Programme on Labour Market Studies, supported by the European Social Fund. The aim of the research is to facilitate the creation of an integrated society on the basis of an inclusive state employment policy. To achieve this aim, the study evaluated the current situation in relation to gender equality in the Latvian labour market, identified existing problems and made recommendations towards securing gender equality in the labour market.

Research methodology

The research was conducted between July 2005 and January 2007, and was inter-disciplinary in its approach, including sociological, socio-anthropological, demographic and economic aspects. Several research methods were used, combining quantitative and qualitative methods and econometric data analysis. More specifically, the research is based on surveys and interviews with three focus groups representing employers, the working age population and families with small children.

Study findings

Gender equality in the Latvian labour market is formally underpinned by national and international legislation. However, deficiencies arise in terms of actual compliance with the principles of gender equality. Such discrepancies are apparent in the small proportion of women evident among entrepreneurs, negative indicators of natural population growth, and considerable differences between the salaries of men and women and in the occupational positions they hold. The research confirms these failures of gender equality in the labour market and explains their causes.

Pay gap

Between 1996 and 2005, women’s salaries increased from 78% to 82% of men’s wages (see Figure); the differences in remuneration are found even where similar workloads apply. This pay gap is due to the uneven distribution of employees of both sexes among the professional groups, industries, and the public and private sector. Men are more likely to be employed in sectors with relatively higher salaries, such as construction, wood processing and transport, while women work more often in sectors with lower salaries, such as education, healthcare, hotels, and catering in the public sector.

Official salaries of women, as % of men’s wages

Official salaries of women, as % of men’s wages

Note: Data for first quarter of respective year. For comparative purposes, men’s salaries = 100%.

Source: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (Centrālā Statistikas pārvalde, CSP)

Men and women have different motivations when choosing an employer, study programme or occupation in the labour market. Women more frequently identify the job as a way to achieve their personal, social and moral needs, while men underline their desire to earn more and fulfil the role of family breadwinner.

Awareness of gender stereotypes and gender equality

During the focus group discussions on gender stereotypes, employed persons emphasised that it is important to enable changes in the understanding and realisation of gender equality. For example, the men who were interviewed believe that, alongside technology developments, traditional opinions have also evolved with regard to the division of roles for men and women. Often, women can now do work that was previously done by men only.

Older people consider that changes in society’s attitude to gender equality can only be achieved over a passing generation. Older women believe that, in their families, the roles of men and women have become more aligned. They think that gender equality at work and in leisure activities is more explicit for young people than for older generations. In fact, the group of students who were interviewed evaluate the issue of gender equality as important and topical, albeit not as urgent in their everyday life.

Employers who were interviewed were familiar with the concept of gender equality. The spontaneous definitions of respondents varied in form but were similar in terms of content – equal rights for all and equal wages, irrespective of sex. However, it was clear that the respondents understand gender equality in a rather literal sense and do not notice latent violations of this principle.

Women and men with higher education more easily accept and practise gender equality principles, while gender stereotypes are stronger and more persistent among those with a lower education level.


The research confirms the tendencies identified in previous years: the impact of gender role stereotypes in the segregation of the labour market, and the prevailing view of gender inequality as a primarily individual, family-rooted problem. Essentially, the gender equality principle is related to resolving issues that are particularly important for women. At a fundamental level, the basis for achieving the gender equality principle in the working environment is rooted in the family, where the child observes the division of duties between the parents.

Reference and further information

Dzimumu līdztiesības aspekti darba tirgū [Gender equality aspects in the labour market], Part 1 (in English, 1.1Mb PDF) and Part 2 (in English, 1.2Mb PDF), Baltic Institute of Social Sciences and FACTUM research studio, Riga, 2006.

For more research at European level, see the following list of Eurofound publications on the topic of gender and work: /ef/search/node/publications OR bysubject OR listgender2007?oldIndex

Raita Karnite, Institute of Economics, Latvian Academy of Sciences

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