Only one in ten women in Kosovo are employed, and another one in ten would like to get a job. The other eight are neither employed nor looking to get a job – discouraged to do so because they are already busy taking care of children and the elderly or for a host of their reasons. The lack of public transport makes it difficult for rural women to reach a workplace, the lack of required skills makes them virtually unemployable, while Kosovo’s patriarchal culture closes numerous professions as unsuitable to women. Remittances may also reduce the readiness to take up low-paid jobs. Except 80% of inactive women, around 40% of men are also inactive, totalling about 60% of Kosovo’s adults fit for labour. With such a high proportion of the population who do not contribute to the formal economic activity, it is not surprising that Kosovo finds it difficult to keep up the pace with its neighbours.
We are strongly convinced that the gender disparity is not only an issue of inequality, but also a key factor keeping Kosovo under-educated and under-developed. The gender gap in labour market outcomes is much higher in Kosovo than in the countries in the region. These differences suggest that there are pronounced gender-specific factors in this context that play a key role in women’s involvement in economic activity. By corollary, the disproportionate level of unemployment among women cannot be resolved by seeking a general increase of employment. A major impact on Kosovo’s development can only be made if policies specifically target women’s employment.
Female entrepreneurs are probably the most courageous and intelligent category of the country. For most women who succeed in business, they had to cross more hurdles than merely finding a way to turn a profit. They had to overcome prejudice and doubts in their family, among friends, and to win the trust of the business clients.
Women are effectively subsidizing the economy with an average of 2-5 hours of unpaid work per day. But the arguments of fairness have failed to mobilize public opinion in the past. We hope that this paper persuades readers that women’s involvement is good for women and men alike, bringing the much needed development.
This paper asks the extent to which Kosovo’s growth rate would increase if more women were seeking work. Due to data limitations, the authors found it methodologically impossible to come up with an estimation of how much GDP growth rates would increase with women’s greater involvement in the labour force. But the paper presents ample evidence that the positive effects for the economy would be significant. If half of the women who are inactive, i.e., around 200,000, would enter the job market, with the theoretical assumption that half of them get employed, a mere back-of-the-envelope calculation yields a level of GDP that is 30% higher than the actual 2013 figure. This assumes that the productivity of the women entering employment would be the same as the average of the currently employed persons in Kosovo. Such a simplistic view makes two unrealistic assumptions – the overcoming of numerous structural problems and the creation of 100,000 new jobs – nevertheless it does provide a rough indication of how the involvement of more women in productive economic activity would affect the country’s level of income and living standard.
Leon Malazogu and Andreas Poltermann