What are RSS Views on Gender Equality

Five measures that would improve the situation of women

25.04.2018
Equality between men and women

Not only in Germany, but worldwide women still have to struggle with professional and financial disadvantages. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has made proposals to change this. By Karsten Röbisch

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Nowadays it is still more difficult for women than men to build up good old-age insurance. There are many reasons for this: lower wages play a role as well as a lack of childcare places, which is why many mothers are forced to cut back on their jobs. Politics can still do a lot to improve the situation of women. The OECD has developed a number of proposals that could also make a difference in Germany.

1. Expand childcare

For many mothers, working more is not a question of will, but of ability. Often they cannot find a day nursery or kindergarten place for their offspring, or the facility closes so early that they cannot accept a full-time position. This is often still the case in Germany. Since 2013 there has been a legal right to a childcare place for children from one year old. Since then the situation has improved. But the demand is still not met - especially in the big cities. A larger number of kindergarten places would make it easier for women to return to work quickly after the birth of the child or to increase working hours as they wish.

The need for external care does not end when the child leaves kindergarten, but continues in elementary school. More all-day schools or after-school care places would also make it easier for women to extend their working hours. The expansion in Germany is progressing. According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the proportion of schoolchildren attending all-day school has increased from 10 to 40 percent since 2002. However, there are major regional differences and the need is significantly greater. The grand coalition wants to improve the situation quickly: According to the coalition agreement, parents should have a legal right to all-day care at elementary school age by 2025.

2. Improve the compatibility of family and work

In Germany, employees have a legal right to reduce their working hours. They have the right to return to a full-time position until the end of the statutory parental leave, but not otherwise. The OECD advocates a more comprehensive right of return, in particular to improve the professional and financial situation of women. After all, it is mostly they who reduce their working hours because of looking after family members. Finally, unfortunately, part-time is often a career killer.

The new government wants to tackle the issue and expand the right of return. Many companies already offer a return option of their own accord - albeit often for a limited time - or are very accommodating when increasing working hours. In view of the increasing shortage of skilled workers, they want to keep qualified employees. The incentives also include flexible working time models or home office options that allow you to work from home if necessary. Such freedoms could also encourage more fathers to become more involved in childcare - again to the benefit of working mothers. Because it is still very rare for the man to work part-time after the birth of the child.

Thematic focus

Women and retirement provision

Mothers often have a hard time reconciling family and job. Many work shortened and accept losses - with consequences for retirement provisions. A quick return full-time pays off, but the general conditions make it difficult.

3. Create better career and income opportunities for women

It is a sobering result: on average in OECD countries, women who work full-time earn almost 13 percent less per hour than men. Part of the pay gap can be explained by the fact that they are more likely to work in lower-skilled jobs or in industries that tend to pay less. If you take these effects out of the equation, there is still a difference - also in Germany: In this country it is around six percent.

The OECD recommends transparency as an important step towards more fair wages. The Bundestag passed a corresponding law in 2017. Since then, employees in companies with more than 200 employees have had the right to find out how much employees of the opposite sex earn on average in a comparable position and with a similar activity. How such measures work, however, cannot yet be assessed, because such initiatives have not been around for long in other countries either.

What is clear, however, is that the pay gap would continue to narrow if women were more engaged in management positions. So far, however, they have been underrepresented in top positions. In Germany, only 31 percent of management positions are held by women. In the opinion of the OECD, companies should, for example, be obliged to set voluntary target values ​​for the filling of management positions with women and to publish them. This is already the case in Germany, but initial experience shows that the target values ​​are often still very low.

4. Break down gender stereotypes when choosing a career

A boy becomes a car mechanic, a girl a nurse - as clichéd the example as it is, it is so close to reality. To this day, gender-related differences can be identified in career choices - and these are partly responsible for the still existing pay gap. Women are more likely to choose jobs in education, social or health care, and in trade. These tend to be paid less. Men, on the other hand, are overrepresented in technical professions, which offer higher earning opportunities. For example, on average in all OECD countries, only around a fifth of first-year students in computer science or engineering are women.

It is primarily the task of schools to change this. After all, young people lay the foundations for their professional careers there, be it because they select or deselect certain subjects, decide for or against a high school diploma or recommend their grades for certain professions - or not. Therefore, according to the OECD, teachers should help students to reduce their fear of contact with subjects such as mathematics or physics, give them more self-confidence and also provide them with targeted support. Of course, the parents are also challenged to arouse their daughters' interest in numbers and technology and to show them career opportunities beyond traditional “women's jobs”.

5. Promote financial education and retirement provision

Nowadays, anyone who wants to be adequately protected in old age needs good financial knowledge. After all, old-age insurance is also based on private provision. To do this, savers have to deal with the opportunities and risks of the capital market, understand how investment products work and know how much they should set aside for their retirement.

Women find these questions more difficult than men. Several studies suggest this. Accordingly, they show less interest in the financial market and reveal greater knowledge gaps. They are more hesitant and cautious and have less confidence in their decisions. The result: many postpone their old-age provision or leave it entirely - and that is one of the reasons why they have fewer assets than men.

That is why the OECD recommends improving women's financial literacy. Because knowledge gaps not only have a negative effect on private pension provision, they also affect career opportunities - when it comes to starting your own company, for example. Ideally, however, the educational offers are aimed at both genders, because there is still a lot that can be improved with boys. Financial incentives - as in Germany with the Riester pension - can also motivate consumers to make provisions for old age. An increase in state subsidies, the opening of the Riester pension to the self-employed and a simpler allowance procedure would make the pension product even more attractive.

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