Moldova lags behind in achieving gender equality in all spheres of life according to the UN Moldova Country Gender Assessment
The Comprehensive Country Gender Assessment was presented today by the United Nations in Moldova. It provides an overview of the state of equality between women and men in Moldova in education, health, economic opportunities, and voice and agency.
To support the country’s efforts on gender equality, the UN Country Team in Moldova (UNCT) is strongly committed to ensuring that its activities and projects include a gender perspective and identify transformative actions to reduce inequalities in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
In this context, the UNCT in Moldova, including the World Bank (WB), has developed a joint Country Gender Assessment that allows an integral and comprehensive understanding of the root causes and impact of gender inequality in Moldova.
Moldova is facing huge demographic challenges. By 2040, Moldova’s population is estimated to shrink to 1.7 million people (the “low” scenario), a decrease of 34.5% against the year 2018. The population pyramid is expected to turn upside-down, with the generations aged 50+ representing about half of the total population, while those over 60+ one third of it. There is going to be a strong gender disequilibrium at senior ages resulting in a very high number of female older single-person households and with a considerable impact on female old-age poverty.
Continuous emigration of the working-age population, with 15,5% of Moldovans wanting to leave the country in the next three years, and ageing of the population will deepen the impact of Moldova’s demographic structure on the development of the country. While women and men desire to have up to three children, in reality they have less than two, owing to challenges with unpaid care work and reconciling work and family life, given the limited availability of family-friendly workplaces and quality public childcare services.
Social norms and stereotypical gender roles also influence educational as well as professional attainments. The assessment reveals a higher dropout rate in schools among boys. In 2019, the male dropout rate (age cohort 18-25) was 22.6%, compared to a female dropout rate of 15.3%. Men and boys seeing their gender role as breadwinners and economic providers, could be an explanation. Nevertheless, educational attainment among Roma women remains low, while women with disabilities continue to face exclusion. In Moldova, choosing a profession is still strongly influenced by gender roles. Girls tend to choose specializations related to the liberal arts subjects (philology, political science, social sciences, social assistance, etc.), which are usually less well paid.
Gender inequalities in health are significant and have been increasing. At the macro-level, men are more impacted by gender inequalities in health, with a higher mortality rate and lower life expectancy, owing to gender differences in behaviour. However, unmet needs for health care services are larger among women, reaching 43% among women with disabilities, 35% among poor women and 35% among women aged 60+. The current need for modern family planning methods and sexual and reproductive health services remains unmet. Additionally, about one third of women in Moldova, especially young women, lack sexual and reproductive autonomy.
Looking at employment, Moldova has the highest prevalence of inactivity among women in the region. In 2021, the share of young women neither in employment nor in education and training (NEET) was among the highest in the region at 24%. The employment rate among the Roma population is about seven times lower than in the general population (40.9%), while the employment rate of people with disabilities is about four times lower. Unpaid care work in the household and family are likely barriers to labor force participation, especially for women, who disproportionately take on unpaid caregiving responsibilities. Women from rural areas have less access to labor opportunities.
Women are at higher risk of poverty as a result of the unequal division of unpaid care responsibilities, lower employment of women, especially mothers with pre-school children, as well as inequity in pensions. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 54% of the poor in 2019 were women. Retirement exacerbates poverty among older women, particularly in rural areas, where women receive much smaller pensions. Close to 40% of older women stated that they have a net income of less than 3000 MDL/month. In 2020, the discrepancy in the average pension of women and men was estimated at about 32% in Chisinau, exceeding the national average by 11%. The risk of poverty is even higher among vulnerable women.
Only a third of entrepreneurs in Moldova are women, caused by different factors including limited access to resources and financial capital, discriminatory practices and gender stereotypes, as well as the burden of unpaid care work. Women are furthermore underrepresented in top managerial positions.
In the political sphere, things are improving. Recent effective legal changes, instituting a double quota system, have resulted in more women being elected to political offices. After the 2019 local elections, the highest number of elected women councillors was registered. 27.08% of elected women were at the district/municipal level (an increase of 10% in comparison with previous elections), and 36.5% at the local level (an increase of 6%). The share of women MPs elected to Parliament in 2021 also increased to 39.6%.
Gender-based violence is pervasive in the Republic of Moldova. Almost 40% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. 49% indicate that they have been sexually harassed since the age of 15, and 18% say that they were sexually harassed in the last 12 month. However, willingness to report gender-based violence is low, also due to low trust in law enforcement bodies.
The COVID-19 pandemic worsened inequalities in care responsibilities, with a negative disproportionate impact on women, resulting in them becoming less active in the labor market. The pandemic resulted in women losing their jobs or incomes, as they had to manage remote working while performing increased domestic and caring responsibilities. Moreover, the pandemic had a near-immediate effect on women’s employment: the share of women who continued to go to work was 15% lower than men.
The assessment takes a No One Left Behind (NOLB) analytical approach and is based on the analysis of data from the Generations and Gender Survey, Household Budget Survey, Labour Force Survey and Development of the Business Environment survey produced by the National Bureau of Statistics and other data. The qualitative component of the assessment included focus group discussions and key informant interviews with representatives of vulnerable groups of women. Additionally, representatives of civil society organisations representing vulnerable groups of women were consulted.
The results of the assessment will feed into key strategic and analytical documents of the United Nations system, including the new World Bank Country Partnership Framework for the Republic of Moldova; the United Nations 2021 Common Country Analysis and the Moldova-United Nations Cooperation Framework for Sustainable Development 2023-2027.
Moldova Comprehensive Gender Assessment is available here.