Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2020-21/Main causes of gender pay gap in Russia

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

We were interested in exploring the issue of gender inequality. To narrow down the focus of our study, we decided to investigate an important factor of gender inequality, the gender pay gap. The focus was put on Russia in its post-communist period between 1991 and 1995, as it is characterised by a significant increase in the gender pay gap. Our chapter aims to investigate the causes of the gender pay gap during this period from an economical and sociological perspective and identify the tensions between those disciplines, which we concluded arose from differences in truth.

Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, communism favoured gender equality by urging citizens to work and increasing female representation within their legislation.[1][2][3] Government's policies were equal pay for all and encouraged labour force participation, regardless of gender.[1][4]

After the fall of the Soviet Union, women started earning less, with the hourly wage for men being larger by 31% in 1992, and men earning more by 25% in 1994.[5][4] This is known as the gender pay gap - an egalitarian measure that portrays the inequalities in the earnings between genders.[6] While there are two types of pay gaps, this study focuses on the non-adjusted pay gap which is the mean difference between income for men and women[7][8] and sharply increased after 1991.[9][10][11]

The Disciplinary Take on the Issue[edit | edit source]

Economics[edit | edit source]

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's economic participants were exposed to a very harsh and sudden reality in the form of capitalist market reforms - liberalisation, privatisation of state institutions and free trade.[1][12] There were major changes to Russia's wage structure with all positions having now a monetary value expressed as a monthly salary.[1]

Gender pay gap increased due to the alterations in the overall wage structure, not because of gender-specific factors.[13] Wage structure means how certain job occupations and rents with persons performing tasks are defined in monetary value.[13] A labour specific legislation in Soviet Russia segregated women in non-manual jobs,[12] which under capitalism, had a smaller monetary evaluation and continued to be institutionalised through economic incentives.[4] Another reason was the decentralised wage-setting system, which allowed an employer to arbitrarily, without the intervention of the state, to determine employees' wage.[1]

Most of the research conducted on the issue operated within the neoclassical economic school of thought[14], where there is “a single scientific assessment standard”[15]. This results in the formulation of one scientific truth, which corresponds to the existing economic concepts.[15][16]

A founding axiom within neoclassical economics school of thought is that everything is done to maximise profits and utility, which explains the thinking behind reasonings for the increased gender pay gap.[17] Income is understood as the innate, technical result of the capitalist market forces, which demand evaluation of one’s labour.[18] The gender pay gap as an economic occurrence, mishappening of the capitalist system.[18] When analysing the increased gender pay gap, the changes in distribution in a completely new economic system determined the causes, not historical, social reasons for inequality.[18]

Post-socialist Russia was in deep economic constraints that created circumstances for Pareto Optimal.[19] Applied here; it meant that a decrease of women's wage and change in their economic position would be inevitable to ensure economic growth, as it is inherent for capitalist economic to make one group worse off than the other.[16]

Sociology[edit | edit source]

Gender inequality was largely due to gender differences in human capital. Females were underrepresented in political power, and as main caregivers usually had fewer years of work experience.[4] According to “Market transition theory", gender differences led to greater female labour market disadvantage in the market economy.[20] Women were usually assigned low-skill, low-pay positions.[21][22] This is explained by the Marxist ideology, which promoted manual labour as more important, as opposed to non-manual labour.[4][23] Manual labour, regarded as superior and paid more, requires accentuated physical strength and women weren’t considered for employment in these positions.[24]

The decrease in employed women widened pay-gap in Russian Federation. Socialist anti-discrimination policies, childcare and maternity benefits had been removed. Discrimination against women in the job market rose.[4][25] Women were increasingly perceived as more family-oriented, less committed and ambitious, more likely to take maternity and sick leaves, which became more expensive under the high economic pressure of the market system.[26][27] Work was no longer a mandatory endeavour, and the number of voluntary exits from work by women increased. It was explained by the cultural norms of the patriarchal society, which conditioned women to be in favour of staying at home.[27] It is also thought to be an outcome of the response to lower wages, loss of benefits and harassment rather than cultural norms.[28]

Sociology seeks to explain the social world using sociological theory. Those paradigms are used to formulate a stable hypothesis on society.[29][30] Most sociological research investigating gender pay-gap in post-communist Russia is done from the symbolist interactionist and gender conflict theory standpoint.[30]

Symbolic interactionism theory understand society as the product of everyday interaction. It focuses on peoples individual social situations and the meaning they attach to them.[31] It investigates the issue of gender inequality from a micro perspective, arguing that socially conditioned cultural appropriateness of sex-linked characteristics shape the way gender is perceived in society.[32] The gender discrimination on the job market arises from the perception of women as less-ambitious and more family-oriented.[4][27]

Conflict theory provides a macro perspective on the gender pay gap issue, looking at large scale structures that shape society. The theory claims that society is in “perpetual conflict” due to a consistent race for resources.[33] This is especially relevant after the fall of communism when citizens were now urged to compete for job positions. Russia, a manifest patriarchal country, facilitated men in the workforce as opposed to women, which ultimately led to an increased gender wage-gap after 1991.[2][3][4] The favouritism of men over women within a patriarchal country and under conflict theory, when men stood higher chances at competing for resources against women, germinated into pay differentials between sexes.

The Evaluation of the Truth in Economics and Sociology[edit | edit source]

The tension between Economics and Sociology in identifying the causes of the gender pay gap lies in the perception of truth. They use different assumptions to form their perspectives on the issue. Economists used a unified theoretical framework determining conclusions.[16] For economists, gender inequality is a “technical puzzle” where rights and wrongs are clearly visible.[16] Thus, the gender pay gap is a technical issue, one which is free from historical backgrounds, contexts, social norms or power relations.[16][18] Because the gender pay gap is understood as an unfortunate economic occurrence, they chose abstract methods to explain it, which leads them to overlook nuanced causes.[18]

Sociological theories concentrate on the organisation of society and the interaction between people. They argue that the social patterns of society arise from the individualistic interactions between humans and that they aid our understanding of social manifestation.[29][30]

The tension arises due to the individualistic perception of the truth of those disciplines; what is true for an economist is not necessarily true for a sociologist and vice versa. The identification of the tension between Sociology and Economics, allows one to find the “loopholes" in the assumptions about today's gender pay gap in Russia. It grants us a comprehensive understanding of the issue and permits the creation of a more exhaustive and impartial solution.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

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