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German pay gap unchanged at 21 percent

March 14, 2019

Women in Germany are still paid 21 percent less compared to men in terms of average gross hourly earnings. To highlight upcoming "Equal Pay Day," female Berlin commuters are being offered gender-discount tickets.

A picture symbolizing the gender pay gap
Image: picture-alliance/Bildagentur-online/Ohde

Germany failed to close its gender pay gap last year, not even marginally, federal statisticians concluded on Thursday, attributing much of the difference to "structural" reasons such as caring for family and employment in lower-paying jobs.

Comparing gross pay figures from 2017 and 2018, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) found men earned €21.60 hourly while women were paid on average 21 percent less, earning only €17.09 as gross hourly pay, with almost every second woman employed part-time.

Germany's workforce in 2017 included 10.6 million part-time workers. Of the total workforce, only 9 percent of the men worked part-time, while 47 percent of the women had part-time work.

Typically, women worked in lower-pay job sectors, seldom reached executive positions, or had "mini-jobs" earning up to €450 a month – a job category proscribed within Germany's social security law books.

Care sector versus job advancement?

Legs and feet of two men and a woman standing together
Image: picture-alliance/Empics/P. Toscano

Asked why they worked part-time, women often cited child care and needy dependents, while men said they did so to pursue training or boost qualifications.

Looking closer at those earners in equivalent jobs and with equal qualifications, women ended up with 6 percent less than their male counterparts, said Destatis in formulating its "adjusted pay gap" using data from 2014.

Elderly 'working poor'

Munich ethnology professor Irene Götz, who in 2017 co-authored a book on retirees' survival strategies, said many elderly women have little option but to pursue paid work.

"Becoming old doesn't mean retirement, but instead poverty," Götz told Germany's Protestant news agency epd on Thursday.

The pension-age gender gap was even higher, she said, because lower earnings during their careers meant lower pension entitlements for women, who, once elderly, often felt ashamed and did not apply for social welfare.

"It was once standard — and even a status symbol — that women interrupted their careers to raise children," said Götz. "Girls were less encouraged" to pursue careers.

Divorce and separation compounded their situations, said Götz, because women had "depended on male-provider marriages."

Gender marketing?

To mark next Monday's "Equal Pay Day," Berlin city-state's BVG transport authority is advertising a Women's Ticket in what it claims is a worldwide first.

The ticket would cost €5.50 and therefore 21 percent less than the normal citywide daylong ticket priced at €7, said the BVG.

Equals 77 days without pay

Equal Pay Day in Germany marks the 77th day in the calendar year up to which women — compared with men statistically — work without pay.

The concept was launched in the 1960s by US civil-rights groups, especially the association of Business and Professional Women (BPW) and was adopted in Germany in 2009.

It is observed on various dates in more than 20 European countries.

Breach of EU's founding ethos

"Women and men are equal. This is one of the EU's founding values," said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen and Vice President Frans Timmermans in a joint statement issued last November.

"But women still effectively work for two months unpaid each year, compared to their male colleagues," they said, pointing out that across the EU, women on average earn 16.2 percent less than men. 

ipj/sms (dpa, epd, KNA)

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