Ljubinka ŠKODRIĆ

Women and Wage Labor in Occupied Serbia 1941–1944.
Policy of Collaborationist Government

and German Occupation Authorities

Abstract: The article analyzes the conditions of the participation of women on the job market in occupied Serbia in the course of the World War II. Its focus is on the policy of the local collaborationist government and the attitudes of the German occupation authorities regarding female employment and the working conditions of employed women, the possibilities and forms of their employment, and the position of the female workforce. This research is conducted on the basis of archival material, wartime press, and literature.

Key words: Women, Work, Employment, Voluntary Work, Mandatory Work, Female Civil Servants, Female Educational Workers, Occupation, Collaboration, World War II


It was extremely difficult for women to keep their jobs in the course of the occupation of Serbia in World War II. It called into question their very existence under the difficult wartime circumstances. Many women who had to earn a living worked for the occupation authorities or went to Germany for voluntary work even though they took the risk of being labeled as women of loose morals. Additionally, there were attempts to impose mandatory labor for women, which was contrary to the endeavors of the collaborationist authorities to reduce the role of women to family caregiving. Attempts to replace male with female civil servants were also countered from the beginning of the occupation by opposite tendencies. Many female civil servants were dismissed while only those whose jobs were their only source of income were retained. Women were dismissed due to family relations or friendships with members of resistance movements or based on their ethnic affiliation. The quality of their work was underestimated and they were frequently criticized and disrespected in public as irresponsible workers. The employment of women was limited and the possibility of achieving executive positions was out of the question. The occupation authorities' need for women's labor gradually prevailed over the ideological views of the collaborators, although with a significant delay. Thereby, the attitude toward the employed women and their working contribution started changing by the end of the war. Even though these changes were visible, their belated implementation and token character was rooted in distrust toward the employed women. This suspicion toward the quality and very principle of female labor remained a permanent fact of life for women in occupied Serbia.