Ethnographic Insights into the Working and Everyday Lives of Women of Retirement Age in Slovakia
This dissertation project examines the situation of women of retirement age in Slovakia. It focuses on experiences of precarity and its effects on the everyday lives and working lives of women of retirement age. Furthermore, it aims to find out how the ideologies of socialist regime and gender roles after 1989 influence the current lives of this women.
Under communist rule, women were encouraged to become part of working population. The government supported the integration of women into labour force by expanding access to childcare and by propagating equality between women and men. However, equality was not the case in practice. On one hand, women became almost as equal a presence in the labour force as men, but on the other hand they were paid less and had less access to higher level positions. After 1989 the government reduced the availability of low-cost childcare. Simultaneously, one could observe a revival of traditional gender roles. In Slovakia today, women still have almost complete responsibility over unpaid domestic labour and are disadvantaged at labour market.
Despite the ideal of emancipated women in the period of state socialism in Slovakia, traditional gender ideologies did not vanish. They even grew stronger in the period of transformation and produced discrimination in the labour market. Moreover, statistics show that gender-based discrimination doesn´t come to an end with retirement: Women with children retire earlier, but they weren’t payed for caring for children and staying away from job. Consequently, women spend on average a longer time in retirement with less income than men in Slovakia. As retired women are at twice the risk of poverty compared to retired men, they need to develop strategies to cope with the precarisation of their everyday lives.
This study aims to find out, which strategies women develop to cope with precarity in Slovakia. The research methods involve biographical narrative interviews with women of retirement age, as well as expert interviews and participant observations in organisations where elderly women meet on a regular basis.