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Germany unveils plan to boost gender equality

  • Femke Colborne

    Agence France-Presse

Berlin, Germany   /   Thu, July 9, 2020   /   10:10 am
Germany unveils plan to boost gender equality Germany adopted a national strategy on Wednesday to promote gender equality for the first time in its history, aiming to put an end to years of sluggish progress on equal rights and treatment for women. (Shutterstock/File)

Germany adopted a national strategy on Wednesday to promote gender equality for the first time in its history, aiming to put an end to years of sluggish progress on equal rights and treatment for women.

The strategy sets out goals for all government departments, including closing the gender pay gap and better representation for women in business and politics, Families Minister Franziska Giffey said.

"This is the first equality strategy in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany that has been coordinated and agreed across all departments," Giffey said, describing the strategy as a "milestone".

The plan includes a focus on work-life balance and the fact that women are more likely to work part-time or not at all because of family commitments.

It also focuses on increasing the number of women in management positions, including in the civil service, and on better representation in politics.

The ruling conservative CDU party has this week already shown movement on the issue, with party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announcing new binding quotas that will see women filling at least 50 percent of senior positions at a local level by 2025.

The government is also working on a strategy to increase the number of women on executive boards so that an existing 30 percent quota will apply to 600 companies instead of 105 currently, Giffey said.

 

Below European average 

Despite being led by a female chancellor, Germany sits below the European average when it comes to equality between men and women, according to a 2019 index from the European Institute for Gender Equality.

Women earn an average 20 percent less than men and occupy only around 15 percent of executive board positions.

Representation of women in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, is currently at its lowest for 20 years, and more than 90 percent of local mayors are male, Giffey said.

Historically, gender equality was a particular sticking point in the former West Germany, where women still needed permission from their husbands to work until 1977.

Shortly before reunification, just over half of women in West Germany were employed in the workforce, compared with 91 percent of women in communist East Germany.

The coronavirus crisis has only exacerbated gender disparities, according to some observers.

"It is quite obvious that women have borne the main burden in families," judge Elke Buedenbender, the wife of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said in an interview with the Funke media group in June.

"It seems to me that in the time of coronavirus, women have been more prepared to fall back into traditional roles than men have to take a step back from their careers," she said.