A new study on the status of equality between women and men in the German labour market has shown that, in recent years, women in Germany have caught up with men in education, employment and income and, in some areas, such as educational and vocational qualifications, they have reached a higher level than men on average.
In 2019, for example, about 41 percent of women but only 39 percent of men of working age had a school leaving certificate (Abitur) or a technical college entrance qualification (Fachhochschulreife). Conversely, men more often had a lower secondary school leaving certificate.
However, the report by the Economic and Social Science Institute (WSI) of the Hans Böckler Foundation also found that there are certain areas where progress for women has slowed or even slipped backwards, particularly during the pandemic.
18 percent wage gap
According to the study, there are still significant differences in earnings between men and women, with the average hourly wage for women set at €18.62 gross per hour – 18.3 per cent or €4.16 less than that of men. One reason for this is that women work part-time four times as often as men – usually in order to reconcile work and family life – which limits their career opportunities.
At the end of 2020 women’s labour force participation was still around seven percentage points lower than men: for men aged 15-64, the employment rate was 79 per cent, whereas it was 72 per cent for women.
Lower wages and labour force participation is in large part attributable to the fact that women still take on the largest share of childcare – a factor which the pandemic has cemented.
Women tend to be primary caregivers
At the beginning of the pandemic, there appeared to be a brief trend reversal as the proportion of women who provided the greater share of childcare decreased from 62 percent (pre-pandemic) to 53 percent (April 2020).
But by June 2021, the share of women providing the majority of childcare was higher than before the crisis (71 per cent vs. 62 percent), while the percentage of men providing the childcare had fallen almost back to its pre-crisis level (7 percent compared to 5 percent).
Despite slight shifts during the Covid-19 pandemic, women have always been more likely to be the main caregiver to children.
The Institute’s gender equality researcher, Yvonne Lott, warned that “the pandemic is calling into question progress that has been made slowly over the years”. Therefore, she said, it is now important for the state and society to strengthen incentives for an equal sharing of care and work.