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Row breaks out over draft German law that uses only feminine titles

Germany's Justice Ministry has sparked a spat over gender and language by drafting a bill that uses only feminine endings, giving some the impression that it applies only to women.

Row breaks out over draft German law that uses only feminine titles
The draft law exclusively uses terms such as "Arbeitnehmerinnen" (female employees) instead of the masculine "Arbeitnehmer".Photo: DPA

Legal texts in Germany usually use the masculine version of words such as “employee” or “landlord” to cover both men and women.

But campaigners have been arguing for years that using this language excludes women or gives the impression they are less important.

The draft law on insolvency and restructuring exclusively uses terms such as “Arbeitnehmerinnen” (female employees) instead of the masculine “Arbeitnehmer”.

“I think it is good that we are now discussing gender-equal language in legal texts and that a ball has been set rolling,” Katja Mast of the Social Democrats (SPD), the party of Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, told the ARD public broadcaster.

But the Interior Ministry said Monday it had demanded a revision of the bill over concerns that it “might apply only to women… and would thus most likely be unconstitutional”.

The masculine form “is recognised for people of both the male and female sex” while the feminine is “not yet linguistically recognised as applying to female and male persons”, it said.

Wolfgang Steiger, secretary of the ruling CDU party's Economic Council, said the business world had no time for such “gimmicks”.

“The time for a reformed insolvency law is running out – but the Justice Ministry is not taking it seriously,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

The German Language Association (VDS) also criticised the move.

“The fact that the ministry of justice, of all people, is failing to formulate a legally binding text is quite something,” said VDS chairman Walter Krämer.

READ ALSO: More men named 'Hans' than women in top government jobs

The Justice Ministry said the draft would be revised before it was submitted to the cabinet and is “not yet finished”.

However a spokesman insisted that draft laws are supposed to “express gender equality in language” according to rules for ministries.

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WORKING IN GERMANY

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck! 

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