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Dear Alex,
Thank you for this insightful blog. My father is a long-distance truck driver in Belarus at Belgruz. For me as a woman, the option of being a truck driver was never open to begin with. My life has taken me on a different path to the World Bank where I have been exploring what it takes to end the gender gap at Women, Business and the Law project. Apart from restrictive provisions in the Labor Code (Art. 262), Belarus remains among post-Soviet Republics that continuously preserves nearly 182 specific professions or occupational tasks across multiple sectors of the economy from which women are legally barred through the Resolution of Council of Ministers from 12.06.2014 №35. The resolution is a modified version of the legacy legislation that stemmed from a 1932 Soviet Union Law. While not all restrictions are enforced, their existence, nevertheless, may mean that some women avoid these sectors for employment and training. The lasting effects of this legacy legislation could nevertheless be vast. As you rightfully pointed out in your blog, one important negative implication is the reduction of women’s earnings potential, since many restricted jobs are often in higher-paying and profit-generating export sectors. Eliminating archaic legislation should not create substantive costs for Belarus, but will open a simple “having a choice” option for women in the country. As matter of fact, Armenia, is among the economies that have already done so. Also, to your point on extensive leave benefits to which women are entitled. While the median length of paid leave available to women in Europe and Central Asia accounts for more than a year (421 calendar days), as estimated by the World Bank's Women, Business and the Law project, total paid leave in Belarus (1095 calendar days) along with its regional peers, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Ukraine, entitles women to some of the longest stay out of the workforce for care. In contrast, the median length of paid leave available to women in high income OECD is less than a year (292 calendar days). Evidence exists that optimal duration of paid leave matters for women’s labor force participation. Paid leaves that are too long may set women back professionally and undermine their ability to get back in the workforce. For example, this was found to be the case in the Czech Republic where paid maternity and parental leave can last until a child’s third birthday. On the other hand, existing differences in leave between men and women could also increase the perceived cost of employing women and therefore diminish their employment opportunities. It never hurts to explore options of how men and women can share such leaves. For example, in Romania a parent who did not initially request parental leave (typically the father) is obligated by law to take 1 of the 24 months of leave. In contrast, most high-income OECD economies offer paid leave specifically to fathers, some with “use it or lose it” provisions and higher wage replacement to encourage men’s active role in care giving and promote gender equality at work and home. I hope this will give some food for thought on how to improve the legislative framework in the country that could impact the overall gender gap.