Berlin workers enjoy first ever public holiday in name of women’s rights

For the first time, Berlin is celebrating 'Frauentag' as a public holiday, with workers - male and female - receiving the day off work. Many Germans are calling for the country to follow the capital's example.

Berlin workers enjoy first ever public holiday in name of women's rights
Photo: DPA

In the capital, Women's Day is a holiday for the first time on this Friday, with the liberal government of Berlin the first state to introduce this day off.

SEE ALSO: What you should know about Frauentag, Berlin's newest public holiday

The federal government has thus virtually closed its ministries and other authorities, while the rest of Germany is working. This has never happened before.

“Like no other date, March 8th stands for the long road to gender equality,” explained Berlin's governing Social Democratic mayor Michael Müller (SPD). For politics and society it applies to the continual fight for increased equality and the rights of the women. Much has been achieved here, he said, but: “There remain many burning tasks.”

In the afternoon, several thousand people are expected to gather in the capital for a demonstration on Women's Day for better gender equality and working conditions for women.

The Social Democrats (SPD), Die Linke (the Left Party) and the Greens overwhelming voted for the holiday in January, which was officially voted on Thursday in Berlin's parliament.

In the past weeks and months, politicians in Berlin have pushed for another public holiday, with various proposals from the parties.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) preferred that other, more religiously-themed days would be chosen. The Free Democrats (FDP) were against the move, arguing that the extra day off would cause damage to the economy and tax revenues.

According to a survey, published by the opinion research institute YouGov on Friday, 54 percent of the respondents would like to follow Berlin's example, while 34 percent were against it.

SEE ALSO: Where to celebrate women's day in Berlin

A long road ahead

Some say that Germany continues to experience sexism, as well as wage differences between men and women (or 15.5 percent), while it has the lowest proportion of women in the Bundestag (around 30 percent) in a long time: In many parts of society, even more than 100 years after the first Women's Day, the road to equality is still long.

Christian Democratic (CDU)  leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer even finds the proportion of women in her party “embarrassing”. The CDU will only win elections and survive as a popular party “if we stand up for offices, committees and parliaments with strong women, their ideas and realities,” she wrote in a guest article for the “Passauer Neue Presse” on Friday.

Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that one of her personal priorities as party leader would be “to wjin more women over in politics,” she said.

The proportion of women in parliaments and parties – especially in the CDU” – is “embarrassing for a representative democracy and for us as a people's party,” wrote Kramp-Karrenbauer.

For Julia Klöckner, vice-chairwoman of the CDU, it is time that Germany also had a female president, even though it has had a female chancellor.

“I find it strange that there has never been a woman president in Germany in all these years. It is time for a bit of normality, even in the highest office,” the Agriculture Minister told FOCUS Online.

Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) confirmed the coalition's goal of promoting more women to top positions.

The introduction of a quota in 2016, specifying that 30 percent of supervisory boards of large companies be made up of women, was a milestone, said Barley.

Currently when Germany's pay gap is “adjusted” to compare men and women with comparable qualifications in comparable jobs, it stands at just 6%.

“We are consistently continuing along this path,” she added. “We will particularly focus on those companies that continue to set themselves the goal of not considering women in management positions.

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‘Most peaceful in years’: no riots at Labour Day rallies across Germany

Protesters and revellers alike took to the streets of Deutschland on Tuesday. Despite a large police presence in some cities, the gatherings were largely peaceful.

‘Most peaceful in years’: no riots at Labour Day rallies across Germany
Demonstrators in Hamburg on May 1st, 2018. Photo: DPA

With May 1st marking Labour Day in many countries across the globe, thousands of people gathered in Germany’s two largest cities, Berlin and Hamburg.

There were around 6,000 participants at a rally in the Brandenburg Gate area of the German capital, which is fewer than in previous years, according to the police. Around 2,200 people took part in Hamburg.

SEE ALSO: Why is May 1st a public holiday in Germany?

Several thousand officers were deployed in both cities as a precautionary measure.

“It was a great day,” said a Berlin police spokesman, adding that there were significantly fewer crimes compared to last year and that the number of arrests was in the “low double-digit range”.

One of the largest marches campaigning for workers' rights nationwide typically occurs on May 1st in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. The last time serious riots occurred in the capital was in 2009 and in recent years, it has calmed down.

In Hamburg, despite some clashes between emergency services and demonstrators and some bottles being thrown at officers, there were no major riots on Tuesday. “We had it all under control,” a police spokesperson said.

“It has become calmer bit by bit,” he added.

Past Labour Day demonstrations in the Hanseatic city have led to riots, though these too have decreased in the past few years. On Tuesday, several firecrackers were set off and some cars were scratched, but no major incidents occurred.

“We have recorded the most peaceful operation in years,” stated a Hamburg police report.

Further rallies took place in Nuremberg, Koblenz, Erfurt and at other spots across the country.

Although the International Workers’ Day rallies are traditionally used to call for increased workers' rights, figures released by the Federal Statistics Office (Destatis) on Monday revealed that the majority of the working population in Germany is satisfied when it comes to their work.

About a third (33 percent) of respondents said they were very content with their work. Meanwhile 83 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied which is relatively high, according to Destatis.

READ ALSO: Germany's most bizarre May 1st traditions