Status and Gender Equality in Yugoslavia

Fri 1 Feb 2002

The Position of Women in FR Yugoslavia

The women inequality in the Yugoslavian society is an obvious phenomenon. It can be seen in objective indicators through various areas, as well as in subjective view of the female part of Yugoslavian population, noticed in the research of public opinion. If the question is: "are women in our reality equal to men in all their rights?", the answer we get indicate that the citizens of Yugoslavia are completely divided concerning this matter, depending on their gender. The majority of male population (63%) claims that women have equal rights like men in all areas, but in the same time the majority of women (60%) claims that they have less rights. In the mean time, both women and men that point to inequality of women, recognize the same areas in which this is particularly seen. Those are four areas: the election for leading position in companies and institutions, the election for political functions, in marriage and family relations and in employment procedure. These areas are ranked by the order of frequencies of the answers given by women. The frequency of answers given by men differs only in putting inequality in election for political functions in the first place; the rest is identical to the answers given by women. This difference is logical because more women had the opportunity to gain personal experience at work (about 43% of women is among employees) that in politics, where significantly less adult women have personal experience, as well as the chance to get it.

The results of December research on ownership of the real estate and other registered properties speak of the economical foundations of women inequality in FR Yugoslavia. According to the statements of some 2220 interviewed in polling research, only one in thirteen women (7,8%) owns a car, while among men this percentage is more than two fifths (42%). From the total number of interviewed, 31% of men are owners of apartments, but only 17% of women. Among men, there are 32% of owners of houses, while that is the case with only 8,7% of women. Agricultural soil or summer houses are owned by 21% of men and 7% of women. There are 4% of men and only 2% of women with savings. Private companies are owned by 6% of men and 2% of women, and the business offices are owned by 5% of men and 2% of women.

The subjective feeling of inequality is confirmed by many objective indicators (official, statistically noted in the state and other institutions), which points to the fact that the subjective feeling of inequality is a consequence of the real situation in the country.

  1. Women and politics

    The inequality of women in politics is present in Yugoslavian society, and it is measured by subjective feelings of women, as well as by the facts of their representation in parliaments on all levels, from the day women got their voting right, till today.

    There are approximately 52% of women in adult population in FR Yugoslavia. From 1979 to 1989, their representation in parliaments was about 17%, and it was highest in provincial assemblies – 24,4%. In that time, there was a so-called "key", a sort of positive discrimination, for electing women and members of national minorities in the parliaments. In 1989 and 1990 elections, in all the republics of former Yugoslavia, the number of elected women in parliaments decreased: in Slovenia down to 13%, Croatia down to 4,5%, in Montenegro down to 4%, in Macedonia down to 3,3%, in Bosnia and Herzegovina down to 2,9%, and in Serbia down to only 1,6%. Until the latest elections these proportions, with small exceptions, remained mostly on a very low level. Before the 2000 elections, according to the Council of Europe report, Yugoslavia was situated in the bottom of the list with 5,1% women representatives in parliaments. Behind Yugoslavia there were only Moldova (4,8%), Liechtenstein (4,1%) and Turkey (2,4%). After the elections in September 2000 for representatives in the Council of Citizens and the Council of Republics, women representation did not significantly increased, compared to previous period of time. Out of 178 representatives in both councils of Federal Parliament, only 10 are women, which means 5,6%. (This way Yugoslavia succeeded to keep its position on the bottom of the list of representation of women in parliaments in the European countries. Behind us are left only Georgia (4,3%), Turkey (4,2%) and Armenia (3%)). Of the 10 women parliamentarians, 9 were elected in the Council of Citizens (6,5%) and only one in the Council of Republics (2,5%). Twenty mandates in this council belong to Montenegro, and not even one woman was elected. In regard to political parties, the highest number of women representatives in the Council of Citizens has Serbian Radical Party (20%), then coalition of Socialist Party of Serbia and Yugoslav United Left (9,1%), while on the third place is the DOS Coalition (6,9%). In the Socialist People’s Party, which is active in Montenegro, out of 28 parliamentary seats that this party gained, none went to a woman. In both councils of Federal Parliament, regarding together, there is not a single woman representative from Montenegro.

    Women representation in both republic parliaments is a bit better than the one on the federal level. In the spring of 2001 elections for the Parliament of the Republic of Montenegro, out of 77 representatives 8 are women (10,4%). Out of these 8 elected, 4 are from Democratic Party of Socialists, 2 from the Liberal Union of Montenegro, and one each from People’s Party and Social-democratic Party. In the Parliament of Republic of Serbia, out of 250 representative seats, men occupy 223 (89,2%) while only 27 belong to women (10,8%). Proportion of nominated and elected women is similar. 14% of all nominated persons from the DOS Coalition list were women, and 13,6% women were elected. This coalition is the best in the parliament in regard to the women representation if we concern the total number of mandates won. Serbian Radical Party is in the second position, nominating
    8,8% women, and 8,7% were elected. Socialist Party of Serbia is in the third place, nominating 5,2% women, but winning only 2,7% seats for women. Most women were nominated by the Serbian Unity Party (20%), but during assigning not even one representative place went to a woman, so this party has 14 seats, but not a single woman representative.

    Contrary to Federal and Republic parliament, where women representation slightly increased compared to previous convocations, in the Assembly of Vojvodina (in which during seventies and eighties was the highest number of women in parliament, compared to other republics and Kosovo, about 30%), their representation decreased from 7,5% to 6,7%. At the same time, in the Executive Council of Vojvodina, women representation is significantly higher (30%) than in the Government of FR Yugoslavia or in any other republic government.

    The representation of women in municipalities of Serbia and Montenegro is even worse, compared to the republic parliaments. The average representation in all municipalities of Serbia is 6,5%, from 6,2% in municipalities of Central Serbia to 7,4% in municipalities of Vojvodina, while the representation of women in municipalities of Montenegro is 4,8%. If we look closely to these facts, the obscurity of this picture becomes obvious. From the total number of 160 municipalities in the republic of Serbia, on the local elections held in 2000, in 38 municipalities there was not a single woman elected (it means almost one in four municipalities, or 24%). Beside that, in 40 municipalities (one in four, or 25%) there was only one women elected. All this means that in half of the Serbian municipalities, in local authorities, there is not a single woman or there is only one. On local elections most women were elected in Belgrade’s urban community Stari Grad (37,5%). From the total number of 45 Vojvodina municipalities, in 3 of them there were no women elected (Nova Crnja, Bac and Temerin), and most women were elected in the municipality of Pancevo (17%). Comparing the counties, we get a very interesting picture of the representation of women in municipalities. In 19 out of 25 counties in Serbia, the number of elected women is below the average republic level of 6,5%. Only in 6 counties, there were more elected women than the average percentage in the Republic. Among these 6 counties, 3 are in Vojvodina, one is Belgrade, and two are in Central Serbia (Sumadija and Bor). Most women were elected in Belgrade,
    (17,6% from the total number of mandates) and least in the Jablanica county (0,8%). In the 6 municipalities of this county, two women were elected in the city of Leskovac, and in the other 5 municipalities not a single woman got a seat. From the total number of women elected in municipalities, one out of 3 (32%) is from Belgrade and about one out of 3 is from Vojvodina, which means that 60% of elected woman comes from Vojvodina or Belgrade.

    From the total number of 721 mandates in 21 municipalities of Montenegro, there were 35 women elected (4,8%). In 4 municipalities (Berane, Mojkovac, Plav and Herceg Novi) there were no women elected, while in 8 of them there was only one woman. All in all, in 57% of municipalities there were no women, or only one woman elected. Most women were elected to the municipalities of Cetinje (15,2%) and Bar (11,4%).

    Beside this objective picture of our political bodies, two thirds of women (63%) responding to the question "how much are the women represented in our political life" said that there were not enough of them. Less than half of men (48%) agreed with this answer. Although this was their most frequent answer, the absolute majority of men (53%) chose for options that women were present in politics "in sufficient number" (32%), "too much" (12%) or that they "don’t know" (9%). In the last research this number increased to 57%. This tells that women, in their effort to achieve gender equality, cannot count on the support of the majority of adult men population. That is why we need a state policy and gender mechanisms on all levels: to accomplish gender equality and positive discrimination for the less represented sex.

  2. Women and education

    The greatest changes considering gender equality are noted in education field. The progress is achieved on all levels of education, especially on high and university level. The equal possibilities for education of children of both sexes resulted with a fact that women were getting more and more educated. On some levels of education, they became equal to men (for example, the registration of population in 1991 showed that in Montenegro 29,7% of men and 29,3% of women older than 15 years finished the elementary school, while in Central Serbia that was the case with 18,4% of men and 24,3% of women, and in Vojvodina with 24,8% of men and 25,7% of women), but still, most of the illiterate persons are women. This is the consequence of the inherited situation, when the education was not attainable to the women from older generations (among the population older than 15 and more, there was significantly more women than men without completed, or partly completed elementary school, in Montenegro 5,4% of men and 16,8% of women, in Central Serbia 5% of men and 19,2% of women, and in Vojvodina, where the situation was slightly more favorable, there was 6,5% of men and 14,2% of women in this category).

    From generation to generation, women were reaching, and even surpassing men in high and university education. According to the census of 1991, in the population between 35 and 39 years old, the number of women with high education and university diplomas (10,9% in Vojvodina, 13,1% in Central Serbia) was approximately the same as the number of men with the same education degree (11,4% in Vojvodina, 14,4% in Central Serbia). In all other younger generations, the trends are in favor of women. For example, among women in the population that was between 30 and 34 years old, in Vojvodina was 13,1% of graduated women, and in Central Serbia 14,6% of them, and in this category they surpassed men in Vojvodina, where was only 11,9% of graduated men, and they almost equaled men in Central Serbia (14,7%). In younger population, from generation to generation the difference in the education level grows in favor of women. Among women that were between 25 and 29 years old, 12,8% in Vojvodina were graduated from high school or university, compared to only 7,6% of men, while in Central Serbia this proportion was 13,8% to 10% in favor of women. The picture is slightly different in Montenegro, but the trends are identical. In the population between 35 and 39 years old, the proportion was 11,9% in favor of men, and in the population between 25 and 29 years, 12,9% to 10,2% in favor of women.

    At the same time, proportion of population with university education, from generation to generation during the nineties, increased. In 1994/95 school year there were 29% people enrolled in universities, or 31% in female population (this is significantly higher than in developed countries such as Great Britain 22,8% (22,7% women), France 22,1% (24,3% women), Italy 10,3 % (11,3% women), and already in the following school year it increased for 33,5% compared to the previous year. Among the graduate students on high schools and universities in Yugoslavia in 1998, there were 60% of women. Number of women among graduate students is highest in Vojvodina (63,4% in 1998), and then in Central Serbia (58,4%). In 1999 among graduate students there were 59% of women, and in 2000 there were 58%. Among the specialized experts, in 1998 there were 61% of women, in 1999 - 63% and in 2000 - 60%. In post-graduate degrees, 1998 there were 45% of women, 1999 – 47% and 2000 – 47%. With the title of Ph.D. in 1998 there were 37% of women, in 1999 – 40% and in 2000 – 58%, although the trends in favor of women are still less then those in favor of men.

    The interesting remark is that, during the research, for men responding to the question whether the family obligations were an obstacle for their improvement, saying "no" most often meant that they had the support of the family and wife. Contrary to them, women more often say that the family life was an obstacle, and if not, then they had the support of parents. The help of a spouse is significantly less represented in women’s answers than in men’s. In the same time, both women and men say that the institutional support for improvement is less available to women than to men. That’s why when women decide to continue their professional improvement, they are more directed to the help of parents or their personal means. According to the statements of both sexes, the companies and institutions in which they work have less understanding for professional improvement of women than of men.

    This shows the need of establishing national mechanisms for gender equality.

  3. Women in labor market and decision making places

    It is obvious by many indicators, that women have not equal treatment with man also in the labor market. They participate in the total employment with approximate 43%. Among unemployed persons in the labor market women comprise the majority, and the employment rate is significantly above their participation in adult population. Former explanations that indicated that there were more women than men among those who were searching for a job, have no confirmation and simply are not true. According to the Bureau of Statistic data in 1999 among unemployed persons without any education, women were 58,8%, in 2000 were 58,7%, and in 2001 58,1%. With half-qualifications or with low education in 1999 they were 60,6%, in 2000 60,8%, and 2001 60,2%, but with qualified and high education in 1999 women were 44,7%, in 2000 they were 44,4% and in 2001 44%, since with secondary qualified education in 1999 there were 64,9%, in 2000 65,8%, and in 2001 65,3% of women, with high education in 1999 64,3%, in 2000 63,4%, and in 2001 62% of women, and finally, with university education in 1999 there were 57,2%, 2000 58% and 2001 58% of women in the total score of unemployed in these groups. All these show that women find a job with more difficulties not because they are less educated, but because they are women. In spite the fact that women are more and more educated, these trends are not followed by the movements in labor market or women’s participation in the decision making structures in the business sphere. At the same time, compared to the present situation in education, there are small numbers of women in leading positions, even in the areas where they represent 70% of all employed persons. Since the precise data of how many women head companies or institutions are not available, or how many of them are on leading positions, we made the analyses on the basis of 17.315 enterprises, and though supposed the possible number of women among the leaders and among the managers of firms and corporations. On the head position (owners or directors) there were 11,9% of women, and among leading positions (most often women were positioned as financial, commercial, administrative or marketing managers) there were 16% of women.

    The analyses of the daily wages index trend from 1920 to 1940 as well as the trend of net salaries until 1986, together with average salaries in 1998, 1999 and 2000, indicate that the women had until this day generally smaller salaries than men. The index of the average daily wages of the insured members of the Central Bureau for Workers Assurance went in 1920 by 107 points for men and 71 points for women. Twenty years later, in 1940 the difference decreased for 7 points from 36 to 29. In the period after the Second World War, there was often officially stated that the equalization of men and women’s salaries was achieved. In the period until 1986 this trend continued (in this case regarding the net salaries so as that in 1976, the index for men was 106, and for women 89, and ten years after this index was 105 for men and 91 for women. In that time, conclusions were more often directed towards the statement that the differences in salaries depend not on gender, but on the education level, occupation or kind of the work. In spite of that, the analyses tell something else. If we observe the salary index according to the education (we may make any other choice: the kind of the work, the working experience, the differences are always evident) we may see that these differences are obvious in all educational stratums, and always in favor of men. The difference is the smallest within low educated group (103:97), and greatest within high education (106:88), within the post-graduated degrees (104:87) and PhDs (104:88). After ten years, in 1986 the differences are still in all educational groups in favor of men. The smallest differences are still within the group with the low education (104:96), while in the highly educated group there are still great differences (106:90) as well as within the post-graduated degrees (104:90). Among highly educated, the greatest difference is within the PhDs (103:90). In that year, as well as in 1976, together with the level of education there was the growth in difference of the salary index. There are differences depending of the profession of workers, or of the kind of work and enterprises. It means that the salary index of men working in commerce was 109 compared to 93 of women, men working in services 112 compared to 94 of women. Index of men working in administration was 104 and women 97, experts and artists men 109 and women 92, and so on, all in 1986. This is, however, the smallest noted difference, regarding all years in the last century. The difference in salaries that year was 14 index points, and in 46 years comparing to 1940 decreased by 15 points. Unfortunately, since that time, the trends became negative. According to the data on average salaries in 1998, 1999 and 2000, we might see that the index moved in 1998 by 107 points for men and 89 points for women, in 1999 by 109 points for men and 87 for women, and in 2000 by 109 for men and 87 for women. The difference in the last year of the past century was 22 index points in favor of men. In 14 years the positive trend was halved, for which it was needed 46 previous years to achieve. The difference diminished in 80 years from 36 to 22 points.

    After presenting these facts, it is interesting to observe how the equality in job applying, as well as in progressing in the work environment, is seen by the interviewed in this research. Answering the question about the chances of women regarding the possibilities of finding the job or to progress in work environment, 50% of men claims that they are equal to the chances of men, and some 18% more of men claims that chances of women are better than chances of men. Contrary to that, 48% of women claims that chances of women to find a job or to advance in office position are worse comparing to men, 38% of women claims that chances are equal, and only 5% of woman say that these days women have better chances than men. Even more interesting fact is that among the women who think that they have equal chances like men, most belong to the housewives and to the age above 65 years old. That means that these are women who have never been employed, or that are, due to their age, not included into this process. Regarding the matter of what was the most frequent question in the job interviews, there are significant differences in answers of men and women. The employers significantly more often questioned women than men about their marital status (40% of women and 23% of men), about the number and age of their children (27% of women and 14% of men), about the habits in dressing (6% of women and 1% of men), about possible complains of their spouses concerning business-trips (3% of women and 1% of men) and the only equal interest was shown regarding the possibility of overtime work (16% both men and women). These differences lead to suggestions that there are elements of discriminative behaving towards women in this domain.

    For tracing these negative trends in the labor market it is necessary to establish competent state mechanisms on all levels of the power.

  4. Women: social welfare and health care

Women, pregnant women and children are categories with special care and prevention needs in social and health system, according to the legislative of FR Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, the decrease of business and economic power of the state, and the fall of life standard of the population, led to collapse of the institutions appointed for social care (in years, there was no payment for social help for most destitute population, children’s allowance were late for months, even years, the maternal leave was not regularly paid, and nobody was sanctioned for that). In nineties there came a rash drop in quality of health care. The number of treatments in medical institutions significantly decreased, the time of hospitalization in hospitals decreased also (in certain years down to 40%). In the population, the social fears were accumulating, and the dominant one, among many, since 1995 and for the whole territory of FR Yugoslavia, became the fear of illness and lack of possibility of treatment, and rested on this position, without the tendency to decrease, till today. The fall of the life standard as well as the poverty of the state, impoverished health and social institutions so much, making the treatment became unavailable. More and more, the experience was formed that for many medical interventions, it is required to supply self-meanings in spite of the possession of health-care insurance, that only on paper guaranteed the access to the medical care to all categories of the population, especially to women and children. That produced an extra insecurity of the citizens, who nowadays have the attitude to believe that the corruption is very embodied in the manners of medical institutions. Answering the question in what kind of institutions they were obliged to offer a bribe in order to obtain the necessary service, the citizens convincingly ranked the health institutions on the first place.

Considering the fact that women and children are, in this matter, the most endangered population, it is necessary to have, beside existing, a state policy and mechanisms which will be in charge for mentioned problems, especially from the point of the protection of these groups, but also to allow the equal opportunities and provide conditions for gender equality. These mechanisms are necessary on all levels.


The facts indicate that women are unequal in many areas of life. Unequal attitude becomes visible during the selection for political positions, leading positions in all areas, during employment and in labor market, in marriage relations and many other fields, including possession of material goods.

Women make 52% of electoral body, and in representative bodies in Federation they are 5,6%, in republic parliaments about 11%, in local municipalities in Serbia 6,5%, and in Montenegro 4,8%. They are represented in alarming small number on first positions in executive bodies, and on places where the decisions are made in their name.

Women are more and more educated, and with increasing of their education, their participation among educated unemployed also increase. They have more difficulties to reach institutional support for improvement, they are more often related to self-financing for improvement, comparing to men. Among unemployed there are 43% of women. There are more and more of them among experts, but they are not adequately represented on leading positions and decision making places in corporations and institutions. Generally, wherever they are, women are less paid than men, with trends to enlarge the difference in favor of men. They have more difficulties finding a job, and they are often discriminated because they are women, and because it is expected that they would be absent from their post during the maternal leave or because of the children’s care.

Women, together with children, are most endangered population in the conditions of poverty and corruption, and Yugoslavia is on the top of the list of such countries, according to the reports of the institutions that are relevant for this matter. The health and social institutions, and instruments for social care are less and less available to them.

These, among many other reasons, lead to conclusion of necessity to establish gender mechanisms on all levels, so as to be able to trace and establish conditions for equal opportunities and implement gender equality. Implementation of gender equality is impossible without making visible every place where there exist, or tend to exist, relations of inequality or even discrimination. All these reasons point to imperative need to create a national plan of action, that would be supported, enabled, and implemented by gender mechanisms on all levels.

Agency for research and development

Jovana Cvijiæa 6

21000 Novi Sad

tel/fax: 021/337-012, 021/337-002

E-mail: nsscan@EUnet.yu

Milka Puzigaca