German women losing ground in equal pay fight

by on September 4, 2008  •  In Employment law

Wage Gaps for Women Frustrating Germany – NYTimes.com

By SARAH PLASS

…Millions of working mothers — and sometimes fathers — have to make often difficult trade-offs when it comes to work and family, but labor experts say the calculus is especially harsh in Germany, a country that despite having a woman chancellor and sitting at the center of supposedly liberal Europe, has one of the widest gender wage gaps on the Continent…. While the wage gap between women and men is narrowing across the European Union and in the United States, it is stagnant in Germany.

Since 2000, German working women on average have gone from earning 26 percent less than men to making 24 percent less than men in 2006, the last year for which statistics are available, according to data provided by the government statistics bureau, Destatis.

It is one of the largest gender gaps in the European Union. Only Cyprus, Estonia and Slovakia have equal or greater gaps, according to a study by the European statistics service, Eurostat.

Across the Continent, women on average made 15.9 percent less than men in 2007. That gap has narrowed each year since 2001, when women made 20.4 percent less than men, according to a report released last week by the European Union foundation that has studied the trend for years.

Comparing statistics with those of the United States can be difficult, since Europeans tend to count part-time and full-time workers, while the United States statistics most closely watched count only full-time workers. Women are more likely to work part time, which depresses their average wage and increases the gender gap when both full- and part-time workers are considered.

Still, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday that in 2007 American women working full time made 22 percent less than men working full time. It is the closest American women have ever come to income parity, a percentage point closer than in 2006. Since 2001, the number has bounced between 23 percent and 24.5 percent….

On the policy front, Germany has some of Europe’s least generous supports for working parents. Just 9 percent of children age 3 or younger have access to day care, compared with an average of 23 percent in advanced countries. In northern European countries, the numbers are even higher: 40 to 60 percent….

The minister for family affairs, Ursula von der Leyen, recently introduced a plan to help finance private child care and increase the availability of kindergarten spots. The Parliament is expected to approve it by the end of the year….

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