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Angela Merkel calls for gender equality in face of pandemic

March 6, 2021

The German chancellor has warned that the coronavirus pandemic threatens to roll back advances in women's rights.

Angela Merkel
International Women's Day is on Monday, March 8Image: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a plea on her Saturday podcast to defend the advances made in gender equality as the global coronavirus pandemic threatens to bring a return to traditional gender roles.

Her message came ahead of International Women's Day on Monday.

"We have to make sure that the pandemic does not lead us to fall back into old gender patterns we thought we had overcome," Merkel said.

She highlighted the issue of care work during the pandemic, pointing out that additional work of childcare and home-schooling during the lockdown have unequally fallen on women's shoulders.

The chancellor said that the federal government was working on expanding childcare facilities, especially for pre-school-aged children, in order to make it easier for women to work.

Equal access to positions of influence

The German premier and member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union focused on the importance of equal opportunities, saying that: "All our efforts are about nothing more, but also nothing less, than equal opportunities for men and women."

The key area of concern was the world of work, Merkel said. She pointed out that over 75% of health care workers are women, whereas just 30% of those in leadership positions in that sector are women.

"It's unacceptable that women play a decisive role in supporting our society but at the same time do not participate equally in important decisions in politics, the economy and society," Merkel said.

Germany's gender pay gap problem

Another cause for concern for the German chancellor was the gender pay gap in Germany.

Merkel argued that since men and women play equally important roles, they should earn the same amount: "That is why we need parity in all areas of society! This also includes women finally being able to earn as much as men!"

The Gender Pay Gap

Germany has one of the biggest gender pay gaps in Europe with women earning on average 19% less than men in 2019. This was largely to do with women working part time, often to do unpaid childcare.

An EU report on gender inequality, published earlier this week, similarly expressed concern for a rollback of gender equality during the pandemic. The report found that the pandemic "has exacerbated existing inequalities between women and men in almost all areas of life."

It also pointed out that women were more likely to work in those service sector jobs that were most affected by the lockdown, and were therefore more likely to be left unemployed.

It could "take years, or even decades" to return to the progress made before the pandemic struck, the report said.

ab/nm (AFP, dpa, EPD)