Yugoslavia Table of Contents
Traditionally, women played subservient roles in Yugoslavia's patriarchal families, especially in the country's backward mountainous regions. In the interwar period, specific legislation protected women's subservient status within the family. Rapid industrialization and urbanization in the communist era broke down traditional family patterns in varying degrees among the land-less inhabitants of rural and mountainous areas. This trend was most pronounced in the more developed northern and western urban areas. The number of women employed outside the home rose from 396,463 in 1948 to 2.4 million in 1985. As women began working away from home, they developed a more independent identity.
Since World War II, women in Yugoslavia have won complete civil and political rights and gained access to education, employment, social welfare programs, health care, and political office. Although women became better educated and increasingly employed, however, they did not generally win full equality in the job market or advancement to high social and political positions. In the 1980s, the percentage of women in low-level political and management positions was quite representative, but their representation declined toward the top of the administrative pyramid.
Women accounted for 38 percent of Yugoslavia's nonagricultural labor force in 1987, up from 26 percent thirty years earlier. The participation of women in the Yugoslav work force varied dramatically according to region. In Slovenia, women made up 43.9 percent of the work force; in Kosovo, 20 percent. In 1989 Yugoslav women worked primarily in three fields: cultural and social welfare (56.3 percent of the persons employed in the field), public services and public administration (42 percent), and trade and catering (41.8 percent). Almost all Yugoslavia's elementary school teachers were women.
Although women's groups had formed in Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade, and a number of female political columnists advocated the feminist cause, as of 1990 the women's movement had yet to achieve significant power in Yugoslavia. Feminist commentators observed that Yugoslavia's rapid industrialization had not eradicated traditional patriarchalism, but had instead created a new form of patriarchal society in which women were treated as sex objects exploited in the workplace and at home. Those allegations were backed by the wide availability of hard-core pornography everywhere in the country, and the fact that most working women were still expected to do traditional household chores.
Data as of December 1990