The Economic Case for More Gender Equality in Estonia

image of The Economic Case for More Gender Equality in Estonia

Gender equality is not just about fairness and equity; it is also about economic empowerment and economic growth. Estonia has made great strides towards gender equality. Girls today outperform boys in educational attainment, but they are less likely than boys to study mathematics or information and communication technology. The gender employment gap is small, but Estonian women are still less likely to make it to the top, and career breaks around childbirth contribute to the declining but still considerable gender wage gap.

This review considers the gender gaps in labour market outcomes and explores the gap in pay between men and women with equivalent skills within and across firms. It considers family support policies for households with young children, women’s bargaining position in firms, initiatives to combat gender-based discrimination as well as changing gender norms in education. It then explores the potential economic gains of greater gender equality under different scenarios. Indeed, a greater sharing of paid and unpaid work between men and women will lead to economic gains, but it requires changing norms, mindsets, and attitudes. Such changes take time, but policy has a role to play in raising public awareness of gender biases in society and promoting change.


Executive summary

Employment growth among women in Estonia has been strong in recent years. The female employment rate (72%) in Estonia is well above the OECD average (61%), and the employment gender gap in favour of men was small at 3 percentage points in 2021. In fact, female employment rates are higher than among men, among older workers (age 55‑64), as related to a mix of economic and health factors. Also, Estonian women generally work full-time: at 13% the part-time employment rate in Estonia is about half the OECD average. However, economic and labour market gender differences persist. The gender wage gap, which has declined since the mid‑2000s, as measured at the median for full-time workers, still stood at 19% compared to an OECD average of 12%. Women continue to shoulder the bulk of unpaid work in and around the house in Estonia.


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