Women and Work in Germany
By workingberlinmum on July 02, 2011
A friend recently sent me a link to an article in The New York Times titled 'Women Nudged Out of German Workforce'. It was rather appropriate timing as I have spent much of the last week and a half in my German class discussing the issues that women regularly face here in Germany in business and what causes them.
I do find it rather ironic that a country that is lead by someone who is considered one of the most powerful women in the world, can still have such an archaic attitude towards women in the workplace. According to the article,
''only about 14 percent of German mothers with one child resume full-time work, and only 6 percent of those with two.''
In class we have been discussing the many reasons for why it is so hard for women here to attain well paid, important jobs within businesses and there appear to be a number of reasons for it. For starters, Germany has a seemingly excellent system of supportive laws in place for mum's allowing those on long term contracts the right to not work for 1 year at a reduced pay (I believe 60% of your salary) and then for a further 2 years without pay (meanwhile the company has to keep your role available for that whole period for you to return to). The problem however with this is that businesses are incredibly aware that taking on a female employee could end up incredibly costly for them and mean that you could be employing someone who may well then disappear out of the company for 3 years. That's a prety big chunk. This means that women, especially women of a certain age who are statistically more likely to be starting for a family in the near future, are regularly being penalised and therefore not getting being offered such contracts in the first place. There are a number of strong women in my class and they have all told stories of friends who have been offered 2, 3 or 6 month contracts instead of the permanent ones which means they don't qualify for such support should they fall/choose to get pregnant.
Another key problem is the lack of childcare facilities. To have your child in nursery/daycare is fantastically affordable and thanks to a recent law:
"has the right to attend a Kindergarten from the third year of life up to school admission."
With this in mind, if you send your child to a state Kindergarden then from the time your child turns 3 all you have to pay is the food costs and any small extras for daytrips and the like. That is pretty amazing and I am aware of that. The problem is that there simply aren't enough Kindergarden spaces to take all the kids and that's even with Germany and it's low birth rate! Imagine how bad the situation would be if the German's were spitting out kids at the rate we do in the UK?! It's all good and well having it be affordable to place your child in to kindergarden but if you can't find one with a space to take your child what do you do then?!
It's a bit of a vicious circle in my opinion. I have no idea how accurate this opinion is but I feel that German's are very logical when it comes to having children. Of course not in every case, but I think the birth rate here is low partly due to such issues. I feel like German partners think through these logical realities to the Nth degree and if they feel that it can't work financially or logistically then they simply will have just one child or they'll wait and wait AND WAIT until they are in a better position. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that they should all be just jumping in to bed and making babies left, right and center but It's a different way of thinking to what I am used to. Listening to the head far more then the heart (and our chemicals let's face it).
German women may well have a reputation for being strong feminists but us women here in Germany still have a long way to go before we manage to equal men!
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