The accession and regional integration processes offer tremendous opportunities for women to advance the gender equality agenda. At the same time, there are strong economic and social forces and trends that also threaten women’s human rights. While some recent regional reports have highlighted improvement in women’s labour market status as compared to men, the CEDAW Committee’s concluding comments for countries of the region points to areas of discrimination against women in employment ranging from absence of sex-disaggregated data on women living in poverty (including minority and older women); decreased women’s share in the economically active population; concentration of women in low paid occupational sectors; high percentages of women working as unpaid family workers, especially in rural areas; strong vertical and horizontal segregation and wage differentials between women and men, and misuse of "overprotective measures".
In Bulgaria the expected positive impacts from EU accession are highly appreciated since the legislation on equal opportunities has not yet been transposed into Bulgarian law. Despite the fact that the present Parliament has a high number of women (26%) the Equal Opportunity Act was rejected. Women are progressively losing their gains from the past and their percentage in the active working population is decreasing. Although the education level of women continues to be very high, their opportunities for employment are smaller than those of men. The affordable services for child and dependent adult care are reduced and the tax benefit system tends to increase disincentives for women’s work.
The Equal opportunity legislation should be adopted and the Labour Code should be further developed to include provisions allowing for affirmative action or special temporary measures to promote equal treatment in employment. A system of reliable criteria should be developed reflecting the difference in women’s and men’s employment, which contains appropriate gender pay indicators.
The indicators should be supported by detailed statistical data. The gender balance in education and further realisation should be maintained by encouraging girls to enroll in education traditionally reserved for boys. Gender balance in the process of hiring should be encouraged to stop the feminisation of poverty. The social services should be enhansed and the tax benefit system should be revised.
These recommendations should be implemented by a sustainable policy in the field of equal opportunities, by creating and implementing more programs for reintegration of long-term unemployed persons, especially women , by using properly the existing European funds within the preaccession programs and making them available for everybody in need. The public awareness on the existence of these opportunities should be raised through large information campaigns.