Women and Unpaid Work in Central Asia

According to the UN report, UN Women: Rethinking the Care Economy and Empowering Women for a Better Recovery, women in Eastern Europe and Central Asia gain empowerment when their responsibility for unpaid work is reduced.

  • Unpaid work (such as taking care of the house) is a significant barrier to gender equality and women’s economic and social empowerment.
  • In Central Asia, the normative construct for gender relations is still that men are “breadwinners” and women are caregivers, discounting the work that women do.
  • Participation in the labor force is extremely important for female economic empowerment. Central Asia had a subregional average women’s labor force participation rate of 70 percent.
  • During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many people moved out of urban areas and into rural ones. This intensified rural women’s unpaid care and domestic work burden and it exposed the reliance of wealthier countries and families on migrant women workers for social and care services.
  • Much greater numbers of women than men have reported doing more household chores and spending more time on unpaid care work since the start of the pandemic, particularly in Kyrgyzstan.


  • As reported in 2019, 93.7% of men participate in the labor force, compared to 68.3% of women. The gender gap is 25.4%.
  • 64% of women who are employed in Turkmenistan have a job in the education field.
  • Turkmenistan has the lowest labor force participation rates in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and yet it has some of the highest enrollment rates for preschool children.
  • Mothers in Turkmenistan receive sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave, while fathers cannot go on maternity leave unless they can prove that the mother is unable to take care of the child. If fathers are granted paternity leave, it is unpaid.
  • However, one of the challenges of monitoring women’s rights, unpaid work, and women’s labor force participation is that Turkmenistan, similar to Uzbekistan, has a politicized and under-resourced statistical system.

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