Michaela Culková

Fewer professions prohibited for women

On January 1, 2021, a new Order on professions prohibited for women came into force. In fact, the ministry revised the list that had been in effect since 2000 and included 456 types of work. The updated list contains one hundred items, divided into 21 categories. On the one hand, this can be called a significant step towards gender equality, on the other, everything is not so simple.

What has changed?

First, the parts of the professions that were excluded from the list simply no longer exist. For example, there are no steam locomotives, which means that machinists are not needed either. Secondly, legislators continue to justify the prohibition of work in harmful or dangerous working conditions with concern for the reproductive health of women. The Ministry explained that “the criteria for revising and updating the list were factors that are dangerous for the reproductive health of women, affecting the health of the future generation and having long-term consequences.” And it doesn’t matter whether a woman can in principle have children, whether she wants to have them, whether she already has them and whether she plans to give birth more.

At the same time, for most professions from the list, the ban can be lifted if the employer confirms safety workplaces by a special assessment of working conditions. But the rest (for example, caisson and diving work, as well as extinguishing fires) remains prohibited regardless of these conditions.

The very need to revise the list was explained by the Ministry of Labor by the fact that “over the past twenty years, a large number of modern technologies have been introduced, which have significantly improved working conditions, reduced the risk of negative impact on workers’ health and, in general, made their work easier.” Some professions remain inaccessible to women due to the need to lift weights (including work as loaders). At the same time, women have to lift no less weights, working in low-paid positions. For example, to turn over seriously bedridden patients – today junior medical staff consists mainly of women.

But there are undoubted advantages. For example, women were officially allowed to drive trucks with a carrying capacity of more than two and a half tons; work as tractor driver-typists; boatswains, skippers and sailors of both civil and merchant and navy; be car mechanics; fishermen of coastal and ice fishing; parachutists and electric train drivers. Moreover, in fact, in all these professions, except perhaps serving in the navy and driving electric trains, women worked even before the list was revised. They simply had to do it unofficially – without social guarantees and for a lower salary.

Another plus – the list excludes the possibility of not hiring women for jobs that are not included in it. This is a guarantee of their right to fair working conditions.

What happened before?

The list of professions prohibited for women, adopted in 2000, is, in fact, the same list that was in force in the USSR. An illustrative example in the history of the prohibition of a number of professions for Russian women is the story of miners. Women, like children, have worked in mines around the world since their inception. At the same time, they received much less men for work, as in all other areas. In pre-revolutionary Russia, they tried to restrict women’s and child labor in mines, but during the First World War the ban was lifted, as there was a catastrophic shortage of workers.

After the revolution, there could be no question of any bans, and in the 1930s, women, on the contrary, began to be motivated to work in the face, again due to a lack of labor. During World War II, women accounted for more than 80% of miners. However, in 1957, the USSR Council of Ministers and the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions issued a decree “On measures to replace female labor in underground work in the mining industry and in the construction of underground structures.” And by 1966, women were finally withdrawn from underground work. From now on, they were allowed to go down into the mines only if they were mine surveyors (mining engineers or technicians) or doctors on duty. However, these two professions require higher education. The restriction remains to this day.

Miners with many years of experience after the ban were forced to work up to retirement in low-paid unskilled jobs, thus losing earnings, benefits and part of the experience. Today, a similar situation can be observed in monotowns serving the extraction of raw materials or heavy industry enterprises. In such regions, men have a choice: hard or harmful, but more highly paid work in mines or in production, or easier, but with significantly lower wages in the service sector. Women have no such choice.

Russia on the way to gender equality

The World Bank conducts a biennial study that assesses the legal barriers facing women in economic activities in different regions of the world. More than a hundred countries currently have laws restricting women’s choice of professions and relate mainly to mining, heavy industry, construction, energy and transport, as well as a number of professions in water supply and agriculture. This significantly narrows the opportunity for women to get the desired job, reduces potential earnings and affects the size of the pension. This is confirmed by the data of Rosstat, as well as the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, according to which women in Russia receive wages on average 30% less than men.

In the ranking of countries in the world by the Gender Gap Index, Russia is ranked 81st line. When calculating the index, the inequality of wages and opportunities to start a career are taken into account. At the same time, the World Bank experts have established: the higher the level of gender equality in a society, the higher the level of its economic development. They believe that removing restrictions in some countries could increase productivity by 25% – just by increasing the proportion of women in the workforce.

The revision of the list gives women more chances of finding jobs that they like and receive a decent salary. But at the same time, Russia is still far from gender equality. Every year, many women try to get jobs in the “male” sphere. They are driven by different motives – from the need to support a family to love for the profession. The legal prohibition restricts women in their rights, while in developed countries the decisive factors in hiring are the professionalism and expertise of the candidate, and not the gender.

If the activities of employees are related to the transfer of weights, international companies re-equip workplaces – robotic processes, buy forklifts or exoskeletons. This is how concerns level the difference in physical strength between men and women, creating equal working conditions. Their harmfulness is corrected by automating dangerous operations and providing workers with effective protective equipment, regardless of gender.

Illustrations: Georgy Vishnevsky

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