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Coronavirus twice the burden for working moms in Germany

May 14, 2020

Mothers in Germany employed outside the home are impacted twice as much as fathers by work and child care, a study has shown. That means moms should get compensation to make up for salary losses, the study recommended.

Homeoffice - Arbeitsplatz in der Coronakrise
A mother working from home has to juggle her job and caring for her children.Image: Imago/U. Grabowsky

Mothers in Germany working outside the home ended up reducing their paid employment to care for children more often than fathers as the coronavirus crisis reasserts traditional behaviors, according to a report by Germany's Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) released on Thursday.

The institute's April survey of 7,677 wage earners found that 27% of waged moms had reduced paid hours done for employers while only 16% of fathers had done so, said WSI researchers Bettina Kohlrausch and Aline Zucco.

Faced by school and nursery closures in mid-March, as Germany shut down much of public life to slow the spread of the coronavirus, child care for under-14s had fallen more on moms who already on average earned less, said the WSI.

"54% of the women surveyed but only 12% of the men stated that they are responsible for the majority of childcare," noted the authors.

Read more: Children suffer most from being locked down

Graph illustarting who stays at home

Long-term effects for women

Such trends would have "dramatic" long-term impacts on women's earning levels and widen the discriminatory gender gap, predicted the institute affiliated with trade union-oriented Hans-Böckler-Foundation based in Düsseldorf.

"Traditional women's occupations are often systemically relevant but poorly paid," observed the WSI, forecasting "devastating consequences" for women over the long-term.

The crisis with its financial pressures had left women mainly bearing the burden of additional care work, said the WSI, urging authorities to ensure "better compensation for salary losses due to the crisis."

Stressed parents

Among working parents, 52% of single parents responded that trying to earn while left to care for their children had become "extremely stressful" or "very stressful."

In households of two parents and children, 48% responded that they too felt likewise heavily stressed.

The study also found that women — often already part-time earners — had also faced employers' decisions to put their staff on a state-supported reduced work scheme, meaning reduced monthly incomes. 

Such women were "significantly less likely" to then receive state benefits to supplement lost pay. Some 36% of men and 28% of women were on short-time work, among women 28%.

Read more: German students fear COVID-19 as schools reopen in pandemic

Previously, only 4% working from home

A woman holding an infant near a laptop computer
Less than half of men and women polled said they are working from homeImage: Fotolia/bella

Often thrust by pandemic measures into working from home, 51% of men and 55% of women said they had remained mainly at their normal workplaces.

Before the crisis, 79% of men and 87% of women had worked predominantly at the firm, factory or clinic. Only 4% had previously worked from home.

Many of those surveyed, however, had no choice but to go to work, stressed the WSI, adding the survey makes "it clear that not all employees can work in a home office."

Read more: US: Coronavirus crisis sets precedent for working from home

Coronavirus lockdown in Berlin

ipj/sms (dpa, AFP)

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