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Women in Germany await workplace equality

Gender equality in the German workplace is not a given: Women earn almost a quarter less than men on average, and government figures on International Women's Day show women are underrepresented in top jobs.

Women in Germany have never been better qualified, according to the Federal Statistical Office on Monday: a quarter of working aged women held a college degree or higher level qualification in 2011. When women between 30 to 34 years of age only were taken into consideration, that figure stood at 35 percent compared with 31 percent of men.

More women working - but in worse conditions

Yet the increase in the level of female higher education does not translate into more, better paid jobs for women. Fresh data from the EU statistics agency, Eurostat, published last week cast gender equality in the workplace in a negative light, with the average private sector wage gap between men and women in Germany reported at 21.6 percent.

A like for like comparison, looking at men and women working in the same industry, at the same level and holding the same qualifications, sees that gap reduced, to stand at 7 percent.

In comparison with other European countries, Italy has the "best" average private sector gender pay gap: 6.5 percent whereas women in Estonia have the worst deal, taking home average pay packets which are 28.3 percent lighter than men's

Glass ceiling a concrete reality

The German Labor Ministry puts the wage gap partly down to "indirect discrimination" - in which women are given fewer chances to climb the career ladder. In 2014, about 29 percent of women in Germany held management positions - a figure which puts Germany below the EU average of 33 percent, or every third woman as a leader at work.

The German Federal Statistics Office, Destatis, says it is a relatively stubborn proportion, remaining "virtually unchanged" over the past two years. Latvia tops the ranking with 44 percent of women as managers, in contrast to trailing Cyprus, where 17 percent of women hold high level posts.

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German women facing conflicting demands

Turning the tide on a trend

The reasons behind the pay gap and promotion hurdles are both complicated and manifold, and include the facts that women are more likely to work in lower paid job sectors such as healthcare or retail, work part time - and that there are often fewer promotion opportunities for those not in full time employment.

Ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, research institutes have set out their visions of how to turn the tide on a trend and establish greater workplace gender equality - solutions which often start in the home: The Confederation of German Trade Union's is calling for men to "reduce their working hours at certain stages of their life," as well employers to make it easier for women who work part-time to gradually increase their hours - a call echoed by The Nuremberg Institute for Employment Research which also maintains that high quality childcare at a lower cost should also remain a priority.

Overall the statistics are hardly a cause for jubilation, although there has been an upward trend in Germany: The number of women going out to work is 13 percent higher than it was a decade ago - however, the fact that they work under worse conditions than their male colleagues means there is still plenty of room for improvement, and pause for thought this International Women's Day.

hch/uhe (dpa/EPD/Eurostat)

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