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Global Economy

"Traditional structures" slow down equality

According to a study, women continue to be disadvantaged at work – despite progress in equality. Although women have caught up in education and jobs, "traditional structures" continue to slow down efforts to achieve gender equality, according to a study by the Economic and Social Sciences Institute of the trade union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation. In addition, the consequences of the corona pandemic for the situation of women are not yet foreseeable.

The new study ties in with the WSI Gender Equality Report 2020, with the question: What is the status of gender equality on the labor market in Germany? And how has the status of equality developed?

Higher level of academic and professional qualifications

According to the new study, women have on average achieved a higher level than men in terms of school and professional qualifications and participation in further education. In 2019, around 41 percent of women but only 39 percent of men of working age had a high school diploma or a technical college entrance qualification. Conversely, men were more likely to have completed secondary school.

At the end of 2020, however, women’s labor force participation was still around seven percentage points lower: the employment rate for men between the ages of 15 and 64 was 79 percent and for women 72 percent. In 1991 the difference was 21 percentage points.

Women are also less likely to be in top positions than men

However, there are still far fewer women than men in top positions in business. In 2020, for example, eleven percent of all board positions in the 160 largest German listed companies were held by women. According to the WSI analysis, the situation is different at the second management level, where the proportion of women at 40 percent was only slightly lower than the proportion of all employees (44 percent).

differences in earnings

According to the study, there are still large differences in earnings. According to the WSI, the average hourly wage for women was 18.62 euros gross per hour, 18.3 percent or 4.16 euros below that of men. One reason for this is that women are four times as likely to work part-time as men, often to better balance work and family. This limits career opportunities. But the wage gap has narrowed in recent years – slowly but steadily.

Different interests in career choices also play a role in women's earnings arrears. For example, there are more and more female employees in the care and health sector or in retail. These jobs are often paid less than manual and technical jobs in which men dominate.

Problem: old-age insurance

According to the WSI, the gap is also large when it comes to old-age provision. "If you take statutory pension, company and private old-age provision together, women receive an average 49 percent lower old-age income than men," reported the WSI.

"Women are getting smaller in important areas. But so far, progress in equality has mostly been very slow," said WSI researcher Yvonne Lott, summing up the development.

Pandemic equality: effects still unclear

It is still unclear how the corona pandemic will affect the issue of equality. According to the institute, there could even have been a step backwards: before the start of the pandemic, 62 percent of mothers and five percent of fathers in couple relationships with children took on the majority of the care, a third of the couples shared childcare almost equally. After a temporary increase in childcare by men, the division of labor deteriorated again by June 2021. In 71 percent of the families, the mothers were primarily responsible for looking after the children, and in seven percent the fathers. Only 22 percent of the couples shared the care almost equally.

The institute's gender researcher, Yvonne Lott, warned "that the pandemic calls into question progress that has been made slowly over the years". That is why it is now important for the state and society to increase the incentives for an equal division of care work and gainful employment.

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