How (Not) To Make Women Work? Evidence from Transition Countries

 
Women in developed economies have experienced an unparalleled increase in employment rates, to the point that the gap with respect to men was cut in half. This positive trend has often been attributed to changes in the opportunity costs of working (e.g. access to caring facilities) and not-working (e.g. educational attainment). Meanwhile, the gender employment gaps were stagnant in transition economies. Admittedly, employment equality among genders was initially much higher in transition countries. We exploit this unique evidence from transition and advanced countries, to analyze the distributional nonlinearities in the relationship between the institutional environment and the (adjusted) gender employment gaps. We estimate comparable gender employment gaps on nearly 1600 micro databases from over 40 countries. We relate these estimates to changes in the opportunity costs of working and not-working. Changes in opportunity costs exhibited stronger correlation with gender employment equality where the gap was larger, i.e. advanced economies. We provide some evidence that these results are not explained away by transition-based theories, and argue that the observed patterns reflect a level effect. Currently, advanced and transition economies are at par in terms of gender employment equality. Hence, the
existing instruments might not be suffcient to further reduce the gender employment gap.