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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Comments Unworthy of A Minister

As surprising as it may be that the Russian labor minister publicly stated that women should stay home and leave the jobs to men, what is more surprising is that nobody seemed to care.

Few of the Russian reporters - male or female - present at the press conference last week when Gennady Melikyan made his remarks even seemed surprised. The fact that the man in charge of the country's employment situation takes such an attitude on whether half of the population works or not apparently is not news.

That is cause for alarm.

Under communism, women made up 51 percent of Russia's work force, compared with 45 percent in the United States in 1990. But women did not have real equality here, as most were employed in low-paying positions with little authority. The high number of female doctors certainly gave the impression of employment opportunity for women - until one learned that doctors were lower paid than bus drivers.

Today, the situation is even worse: More than 70 percent of Russia's 600, 000 unemployed are women, according to the Center for Gender Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. and many of the country's 3 million "invisible unemployed", those still listed as employees at state industries that are too bankrupt to pay them, are also women.

When even the labor minister says that women are expendable in the workforce, it is not surprising that they are the first to go.

When Melikyan is capable of pronouncing phrases like, "It is better that men work and women take care of children and do the housework", it becomes clear that he has no clue as to how the current economic situation is affecting ordinary working Russians. If Melikyan thinks that women are working simply because they are bored at home or want to have some pocket money to add to their husband's salaries, he is living in a dream world.

Many of the newly unemployed are single mothers watching prices skyrocket as they struggle to find food and clothing for themselves and their children. With today's runaway inflation, even married couples are finding that one salary is not enough to cover their most basic needs.

Systematically excluding women from the workforce not only sets back women, but sets back sons, daughters, husbands and fathers and, in doing so, sets back the pace of successful economic reform.

Melikyan should make a public statement retracting his ill-considered remarks, which are unworthy of a labor minister anywhere 25 years after the advent of feminism and are particularly harmful in this country at this difficult time.