Young Women’s Transition from Education to Work in the Caucasus and Central Asia

Published date01 March 2020
Date01 March 2020
ANNALS, AAPSS, 688, March 2020 137
DOI: 10.1177/0002716220908260
Young Women’s
Transition from
Education to
Work in the
Caucasus and
Central Asia
908260ANN The Annals of the American AcademyYoung Women’s Transition from Education to Work
This article analyzes the individual- and family-level
factors that pave the way to the labor market and to
formal sector jobs for young women in the Caucasus
and Central Asia. Retrospective life history data from a
2017 survey in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan show
that higher education attainment has a strong positive
impact on labor market activity and getting a formal
sector job. Early family formation drives young women
into inactivity, but it does not limit the chances of get-
ting access to the formal sector. The chances of getting
a formal sector job are positively influenced by the
social resources of parents in Georgia and Tajikistan
and by parents’ economic resources in Azerbaijan and
Georgia. Evidence about the role of economic need
and of traditionalism for women’s labor market partici-
pation is mixed.
Keywords: female labor force participation; school-
to-work transition; informal work, educa-
tion effects; family formation; parental
resources; intergenerational transmission
Despite increasing educational levels,
decreasing fertility rates, and global eco-
nomic progress, women still face problems in
labor market integration around the world
(Elder and Kring 2016; Heyne 2017; Iannelli
and Smyth 2008; Smyth 2005). This applies to
the region of the Caucasus and Central Asia
(CCA) and especially to Muslim societies
(Heyne 2017; Spierings, Smits, and Verloo
2009, 2010). However, our knowledge of
Michael Gebel is a full professor of methods of empirical
social research at the University of Bamberg, Germany.
His research focuses on the transition to adulthood,
unemployment, nonstandard employment, and returns
to education in Europe, the Middle East, and the
Caucasus and Central Asia.
NOTE: The author acknowledges funding for the
project “Opportunities and Barriers at the Transition
from Education to Work. A Comparative Youth Study
in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tajikistan” from the
Volkswagen Foundation for the period 2015–2019.
women’s labor market chances in the CCA region is mostly descriptive (Elder
etal. 2015). This article provides the first detailed multivariate analyses of wom-
en’s labor market integration in the CCA, drawing on newly collected, nationally
representative, retrospective life history data from Azerbaijan, Georgia, and
Women’s disadvantages emerge quite early in working life, especially after
marriage and childbirth according to Western studies (Brewster and Rindfuss
2000; van der Lippe and van Dijk 2002). However, in developing countries,
women’s labor market disadvantage often arises during the school-to-work transi-
tion in terms of lower rates of labor force participation and the types of jobs
women usually enter (Elder and Kring 2016; Gebel and Heyne 2014). Previous
research has underlined the importance of this early transition event for the later
life course (Buchmann and Kriesi 2011; Schoon and Silbereisen 2009).
Accordingly, I focus on women at the beginning of their career. Moreover,
another central issue for women who enter the labor market is what kind of jobs
they get. For postsocialist countries, the employment sector type matters
(Gërxhani 2004; Gërxhani and van de Werfhorst 2013; Kogan 2011), because a
substantial share of women end up in informal job arrangements that are usually
poor quality (Gërxhani 2004). This article also addresses this labor market divide.
Likewise, I address social inequalities within the group of women studied
(Gebel and Heyne 2014). Based on the observation that some subgroups of
women are quite successful compared to others, the central research question
here is which individual- and family-level factors hamper or promote women’s
labor market access and chances to get a formal sector job.
The article is organized as follows: I describe the background of the three
countries analyzed, and then discuss theoretical arguments about the effects of
different individual and family factors on young women’s labor market chances.
I then describe the dataset, variables, and methods used in this study and present
the results of the empirical analyses. Finally, I synthesize the findings of the
empirical analyses and highlight which are the important individual- and family-
level determinants of women’s labor market chances in the CCA region. In this
regard, I add depth to the established literature, which lacks an understanding of
women’s labor market integration in the CCA region.
The Structural, Institutional, and Cultural Background
Aside from getting in-depth insights into young women’s labor market chances in
three countries of the CCA region, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Taijkistan represent
an interesting cross-country comparative setting. I argue that the three countries
share similarities (mainly in their institutional context) and differences (mainly in
their economic development and the religious/cultural background). This allows
me to formulate general expectations about all three countries given the cross-
country similarities and country-specific expectations given the cross-country

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