MINSK, 3 March (BelTA) – Belarus will unleash a set of measures to empower women socially and economically and to promote gender equality and women's rights, Labor and Social Security Deputy Minister Valery Kovalkov told reporters on 3 March, BelTA has learned.
“Women account for over 55% of workforce in Belarus. They pursue careers in virtually all areas and sectors. The social and economic status of women is increasing from year to year,” Valery Kovalkov said.
He cited the following figures to illustrate his point: about 40% of employed women have a university degree, almost half of managers are women.
“The government is doing a lot to improve the status of women, promote full and productive employment and decent work, and protect their health. A number of normative legal acts are to be passed this year to remove barriers to women's empowerment. These are, first of all, a national action plan to promote gender equality and two government programs: ‘Labor market and employment promotion' and ‘Public health and demographic security'. These policy documents seek to expand economic opportunities for women and support women entrepreneurs, including in rural areas,” Valery Kovalkov said.
He specified that the national action plan will span five years and has been adopted for the sixth time. One of the sustainable development goals is to ensure gender equality. Thus, the national action plan offers a number of measures to empower women economically and socially.
One of the most effective measures is the provision of gratuitous subsidies by the government. In 2020, almost 45% of those who received start-up grants were women. “Over the past five years, 3,700 women got subsidies and were able to start their own business, that is, they became economically independent,” the deputy minister added. Female entrepreneurs run all types of businesses - from hairdressing services to public catering. Before starting a business, aspiring entrepreneurs undertake the necessary training in management and are assisted with making business plans.
The Development Bank of Belarus is also involved in supporting women's entrepreneurship. It funded 73 business projects to the amount of Br9.5 million in 2020.
Work continues to improve mechanisms to reintegrate women in the labor market. About 1,700 unemployed women received training and retraining in 2020. Over the past five years, over 14,000 women completed retraining courses and became more competitive on the labor market. Women on maternity leave have an opportunity to improve their qualifications in order to retain and build on existing skill set, stay competitive and keep up with developments in the labor market. Over this period, 343 women on maternity leave took advantage of training courses to develop their skills and increase their range of capabilities while also receiving a scholarship.
Last year, teleworking received a legal status - this also opened up additional prospects for women.
The deputy minister stressed that women's unemployment remained steadily low over the past eight years. Yet, women still struggle to balance unpaid work at home with official employment. This problem will be addressed through legislative effort and awareness-raising campaigns.