Ukraine - An Overview of Women's Work, Minimum Wages and Employment

An Overview of Women’s Work and Employment in Ukraine. Minimum wage, wages, labour employment, unemployment, women employment, working conditions, Labour market structure, Legislation, Labour relations, Literacy, Literacy and skill levels of female labour, etc...

Decisions for Life MDG3 Project Country Report No. 8

University of Amsterdam /Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS)
Maarten van Klaveren, Kea Tijdens, Melanie Hughie-Williams, Nuria Ramos Martin
Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 2010



This report provides information on Ukraine on behalf of the implementation of the DECISIONS FOR LIFE project in that country. The DECISIONS FOR LIFE project aims to raise awareness amongst young female workers about their employment opportunities and career possibilities, family building and the work-family balance. This report is part of the Inventories, to be made by the University of Amsterdam, for all 14 countries involved. It focuses on a gender analysis of work and employment.

History (2.1.1). Under the Soviet regime, Ukraine in particular suffered from intellectual oppression and agriculture collectivisation, to become after 1945 an important center of Soviet steel and arms industry. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country had great difficulties in adapting its governance system and consequently in its economic transition, in the 1990s resulting in widespread poverty. In the 2000s export-led growth followed based on the strong points of Ukraine’s economy.

Governance (2.1.2). Ukraine is a multiparty, democratic republic with a mixed presidential and parliamentary system. Corruption remains widespread at various levels. The legislation upholds the rights of women, but women face discriminatory practices in various areas. Women’s participation in politics and governance is low, and contrast with women’s participation in employment and education. The law does not explicitly address domestic violence and spousal rape.

Prospects (2.1.3). Ukraine’s economy has been severely hit by the global economic crisis. In 2009, the country’s GDP fell by 15%, and real wages by over 9%. Recovery prospects are modest, and current projections imply that it will take five or six years before Ukraine will surpass its 2008 GDP level.

Communication (2.2). The coverage of fixed telephone connections has recently increased, but Ukraine has been an early adapter to the cellular telephone revolution, with currently over one cell phone per person. By 2008, there were 226 Internet users per 1,000 of the population. Internet sources played a major role in the “Orange Revolution”. Nearly all households have a TV set. Political pressure on the press is rather heavy.

The sectoral labour market structure – Population and employment (2.3.1). Between 2000 and 2005 there was a significant shift away from paid employment to self-employment, employership and working for own account, resuming in 2009. In the 2000s many women have started a “women’s business”. With nearly 62%, women’s Labour Participation Rate (LPR) in 2008 was 86% of men’s.

The sectoral labour market structure – Unemployment (2.3.2). In 2009, unemployment has grown by more than one-third, though especially female 15-24-year olds seem discouraged to look after formal employment, instead prolonging their education, engaging in informal labour or helping in the family. Female 25-29-year-olds obviously have a much stronger propensity to continue in formal labour.

Legislation (2.4.1). Ukraine has ratified the eight core ILO Labour Conventions. The Constitution provides for the freedom of association and assembly and the right to strike, though the registration procedure for unions is extremely cumbersome and the right to strike is also subject to many legal limitations.

Labour relations and wage-setting (2.4.2). The trade union movement in Ukraine is dominated by the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, FPU. Jointly with two smaller federations, union density in 2008-09 was nearly 60% of all paid employees. In 2009, the FPU and the government had a continuous conflict focusing on setting the subsistence minimum and the minimum wage.

The statutory minimum wage (2.5.1). In December 2009 the monthly minimum wage, set by law, was 669 hryvnias, or 35% of the country’s average monthly wage. Over 2000-2006 the minimum wage rose from about 35 to 70% of the subsistence minimum, but the gap between the subsistence minimum and the average wage grew considerably.

Inequality and poverty (2.5.2). Directly after independence, inequality and poverty started to increase, poverty depending on the yardstick used in 1995-96 growing to 30-85%. About 15 years ago a large part of the population experienced poverty in often harsh forms. From 2001-2006, poverty decreased, but the 2008-09 crisis may well have aggravated poverty substantially. Income inequality developed simultaneously with poverty, and is currently at low-to-medium level in international perspective.

Population and fertility (2.6.1). Since the 1980s Ukraine is in a demographic crisis, with reduced fertility rates, high death and emigration rates, ending up in massive depopulation. Between 1990 and 2009, population decreased by nearly 12%. The total fertility rate, less than 1.3 children per woman, is quite low; the adolescent fertility rate is with 32 per 1,000 rather low but since a few years growing. Many – young women and men—want to marry young.

Health (2.6.2). In 2007 there were an estimated 440,000 persons with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, or 1.6-1.8% of the adult population, the highest percentage in Europe or Central Asia. The levels of public awareness of HIV/AIDS are rather low. The life expectancy at birth is very low for men. In particular many men have serious health and mental problems, and international organisations talk about a health crisis. They regard almost half of deaths before the age of 75 in Ukraine as avoidable.

Women’s labour market share (2.6.3). Women make up nearly half of the country’s labour force. In 2008 six of 15 industries showed a female majority. Women made up majorities in five occupational groups, in particular among professionals and associate professionals. In thigh-skilled occupations they concentrate in the formal sector. Even at the level of legislators, senior officials and managers, the female share of 39% is in international perspective rather high.

Literacy (2.7.1). The adult literacy rate –-those age 15 and over that can read and write—in 1999-2006 was 98.9%, with hardly a gender gap: 99.0% for men and 98.8% for women. In 2007 the literacy rate for 15- 24-year-olds stood at 99.8% for both sexes.

Education of girls (2.7.2). In 2006, the combined gross enrollment rate in education was 88.8%, divided in 91.5% for females and 86.3% for males. Net enrollment in primary education was for 2007 set at 89.8% for girls and 89.9% for boys. Women to men parity in secondary education increased to 100% in 2007. With 88% gross enrollment in tertiary education in 2008, women’s participation at this level of education is very high, and women to men parity 124%.

Female skill levels (2.7.3). Women in the employed population have on average a higher educational level than their male colleagues. Comparison with empoyment levels point at an immense underutilisation of their qualifications. Segmentation of the labour market seems to play a major role here. We estimate the current size of the target group of DECISIONS FOR LIFE for Ukraine at about 440,000 girls and young women 15-29 of age working in urban areas in commercial services.

Wages (2.8.1). We found for 2008 a considerable gender pay gap, totaling 25%. In the formal sector wage discrimination is identified as the main factor. Though the wage structure in the 2000s has been compressed, wage differences between sectors remain considerable. Besides having low wages, women in wholesale and retail and in the restaurant and hotel sector have been particularly hit by redundancies. Women in the top of the wage distribution earn more when they are self-employed than when they are salaried, both in the formal and in the informal sector.

Working conditions (2.8.2). As far as can be traced, gender differences in hours worked are small. In 2003, nearly 90% of males and 84% of females worked full-time, and very small shares worked less than 20 hours.


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