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Germany's coalition talks yield boardroom quota for women

Angela Merkel's conservatives have agreed with the Social Democrats on a quota for women on corporate boards. The two sides also laid out a plan that lets parents return to work and still receive childcare assistance.

Starting in 2016, at least 30 percent of a publicly traded company's supervisory board must be female, Social Democrats (SPD) negotiator Manuela Schwesig announced Monday in Berlin. In addition, large companies must lay out their plans to raise the percentage of women on the executive board and highest levels of management by 2015.

The announcement comes as part of the ongoing coalition negotiations between the SPD and Christian Democrats (CDU), along with their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU).

Schwesig called the quota agreement an important signal for women's advancement opportunities and equality in the workplace.

The SPD had recently proposed gradually raising the percentage of female executives to 40 percent by 2021. The CDU/CSU were initially against a rigid quota and had stressed that it was neither sensible nor constitutionally possible, but on Sunday CDU negotiator Annette Widmann-Mauz spoke of a "culture shift within companies," hailing the "reasonable arrangement with the SPD."

Women currently make up a minority of those holding leadership positions in large companies. Just 11.7 percent of executive board positions are held by women, as of September 2013.

Agreements over family care

The two sides also agreed on a plan to allow parents to work part-time and still receive an allowance for up to 28 months after the birth of their child. If both parents are looking after the child and working part-time, they can receive a 10 percent bonus. The aim of the program is to facilitate re-entry into the workplace.

Additionally, there will be a 10-day wage compensation to care for family members. Currently such compensation only exists for parents caring for a sick child.

Widmann-Mauz called the family assistance steps a "milestone" that would not have been possible with the CDU's previous coalition partners, the Free Democrats, who failed to garner the 5 percent of votes necessary to reach parliament in the September 22 election.

Even with Monday's breakthrough, a number of issues remain unresolved between the two sides.

Schwesig said that there had "been no agreement with the CDU" over investing more money in day care centers or adoption rights for same-sex couples. Fellow SPD negotiator Karl Lauterbach added that there was "no progress" on talks over financing health and nursing care.

On the issues of health care and insurance, both sides remained "far apart," said the conservatives' negotiator, Jens Spahn.

dr/hc (dpa, AFP, epd)