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

An Overview of Women’s Work and Employment in Azerbaijan. 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. 9

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 Azerbaijan 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). In the 1880s, the first oil boom took place in Azerbaijan. After brief independence from 1918 to 1920, the country realised independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This was overshadowed by the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Armenia and an economic crisis that hit women dramatically. The 2000s witnessed spectacular economic growth, led by growing oil exports and high oil prices.

Governance (2.1.2). Azerbaijan is a secular and unitary republic with a presidential system. Recently the government’s human rights record remained poor. The Constitution guarantees equality and rights for all citizens, but enforcement of human and women’s rights is weak. With the 2009 elections, women representation in parliament came at 11.4%. Domestic violence and sexual harassment are widespread.

Prospects (2.1.3). Though Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) fell drastically in 2008-09, the global economic crisis has had a modest impact on Azerbaijan’s economy. A further decline in jobs in manufacturing sub-sectors like textiles, garment and leather has negatively affected female employment.

Communication (2.2). Though the coverage of fixed telephone connections has recently grown, this is dwarfed by the expansion of the incidence of cell phones, to over three in four of the population in 2008. By that year, 181 per 1,000 were Internet users. Nearly all households have a TV set. Freedom of press, be it TV, radio or printed press, is a recurrent problem.

The sectoral labour market structure – Population and employment (2.3.1). Between 2003 and 2008 a growing ”informalisation” of the economy has taken place, in particular concerning women’s employment. With 66% in 2008, women’s Labour Participation Rate (LPR) was 91% of men’s.

The sectoral labour market structure - Unemployment (2.3.2). In the 2000s unemployment fell from 10-13% to 6-7%. The differences between the male and female unemployment rates are marginal. In 2006 unemployment was highest for girls and young women aged 15-24 (17%), followed by their male peers (15.5%). Most likely this picture is structural.

Legislation (2.4.1). Azerbaijan has ratified the eight core ILO Labour Conventions. The Constitution provides for the right to strike, but there are exceptions. The State prohibits unions from carrying out political activities. In the informal economy the government did not enforce contracts or labour legislation.

Labour relations and wage-setting (2.4.2). Depending on how many members the affiliates of the ATUC, the only union confederation, have, union density may vary between 42 and 91%. The national process of wage-setting seems to be orchestrated top-down, but some reservations should be made, like on bilateral government agreements with multinational enterprises (MNEs), setting aside labour laws. Unions also rarely participate in determining wage levels in the state sector.

The statutory minimum wage (2.5.1). Since 2008 the administratively set minimum wage is AZN 75, or 27% of the country’s average monthly wage. Since 2004, the value of the MW has been about this level. In practice the MW is not effectively enforced.

Poverty (2.5.2). For 2008, it was officially estimated that less than 13% of the population lived below the national poverty line. This is questioned by various research outcomes, suggesting a more grim picture, though the trend towards less poverty and greater equality cannot be denied. Economic independence is far-away for many women, in particular for many young women. Female-headed households are much more locked in poverty than male-headed households.

Population and fertility (2.6.1). Azerbaijan has a rather low and decreasing population growth, currently lower than 0.8% yearly. The 2009 sex ratio at birth is 1.13 male/female. The total fertility rate (slightly above 2.0 children per woman) and the adolescent fertility rate (44 per 1,000) are rather low but the adolescent rate is increasing. Early marriage is uncommon but increasing too.

Health (2.6.2). In 2007, the number of people in Azerbaijan living with HIV was estimated at 7,800. Though HIV/AIDS is much more a men’s disease, female risk groups include trafficked women and girls and injecting drug users. Levels of public awareness of HIV/AIDS are very low, as is the case for knowledge on contraceptive prevalence. Health disparities are large, including urban – rural divides.

Women’s labour market share (2.6.3). Women make up nearly half of the country’s labour force. In 2008 five of the 15 industries showed a female share above this average. Nearly half of all women employed could be found at the bottom of the labour market, in elementary occupations. Among legislators, senior officials and managers the female share was with 6% very low, but women made up majorities among professionals (54%) and among technicians and associate professionals (53%).

Literacy (2.7.1). The adult literacy rate –those age 15 and over that can read and write—in 1999-2006 was 98.7%, with hardly any gender gap: 99.0% for men and 98.3% for women. In 2007 literacy rate for 15-24- year-olds stood at 99.9%; young females even scored 100%.

Education of girls (2.7.2). In 2006 the combined gross enrollment rate in education was 66.2%, divided in 65.3% for females and 67.2% for males. In the 2000s school life for girls has been prolonged substantially. Net enrollment in primary education was for 2006 set at 83.3% for girls and for boys 86.2% for boys; in secondary education these rates were 76.4% and 79.2%. Beyond the age of 16, enrollment rates drop off sharply, with 13% of young adults in tertiary education. In 2006-2007, female students made up 47% of all tertiary enrolled.

Female skill levels (2.7.3). Gender differences in the country’s education structure are rather small. Women are less represented at the highest level, but more at the second highest level. Women 25-29 of age are highest educated. Especially for women a serious under-utilization of skills is at hand. We estimate the size of the target group of DECISIONS FOR LIFE for Azerbaijan at about 90,000 girls and young women working in urban areas in commercial services.

Wages (2.8.1). We found for 2008 large differences between wages across industries, as well as a large gender pay gap, totaling 43% -- fitting in the picture of a highly segmented labour market. Remarkably small was the gender pay gap in wholesale and retail, where men had quite low earnings.

Working conditions (2.8.2). Overall, gender differences in hours worked are small. Nearly one in four women work part-time i.e. less than 31 hours per week. In 2008, in eight of 15 industries the average monthly hours of females were longer than those of males, in four industries even considerably.


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