Across the Europe and Central Asia region, many countries have a long history of striving for gender equality. According to Women, Business and the Law 2021, the region scores highest among non-OECD countries on gender equality in mobility, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, and assets.
However, three decades of unprecedented political, economic and social transformations have had profound gender-related impacts, which vary country by country. Among the main challenges in the region are persistent gaps in labor force participation and earnings.
Women's employment has been affected by the shrinkage of state-provided services such as child-care and child allowances. Land privatization has led to gender-differentiations in land ownership, where the male head of the family is most often listed as the primary owner.
In labor force participation, the gender gap is about 17 percentage points, with a key constraint being the lack of access to affordable and quality childcare. The pay gap between males and females is about 30 percent. Legal restrictions still exist on certain types of jobs that women can perform.
Female entrepreneurship is low compared to other regions, due to limited access to assets, financial services, capacity building opportunities, information, and markets.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated pre-existing gender vulnerabilities. Women are faced with immense stress in balancing their paid and unpaid work with family and childcare needs. They have been experiencing serious mental, physical, and emotional health implications. Women-headed businesses have been the first to suffer in terms of reduction in workforce and firm closure.