International Women's Day: Loud calls for more wages for women

On average, women in Germany are still paid less than men - even for the same work.

International Women's Day: Loud calls for more wages for women

On average, women in Germany are still paid less than men - even for the same work. On "Equal Pay Day", which draws attention to the wage gap between men and women, the trade unions vehemently demanded that the pay gap be closed more quickly than before. Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) is looking to close ranks with the German Federation of Trade Unions - and announces legal regulations.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, women in Germany earned an average of 18 percent less per hour than men in 2022 - also because women often work in lower-paid professions and part-time.

With comparable work, qualifications and employment history, female employees earned an average of 7 percent less than men per hour. DGB boss Yasmin Fahimi insists on change. "We need political decisions now," she says at a DGB campaign at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Next to her is the Minister of Labour. Heil says: "It's a shame that we still have to stand here."

Badly paid "women's jobs"

Fahimi pointed to the slow shrinking of the pay gap between men and women - since official recording began in 2006, according to the Federal Statistical Office, it has only fallen by five percentage points. "If things continue like this, we'll need another 61 years before we've finally found equal pay," says the DGB boss. That is not acceptable.

Heil says that women are often employed for low wages, for example in education and care, with florists, in the hairdressing sector or in the catering trade. This has to change. "It's not just a matter of justice," said the minister. In times of securing skilled workers, this is also required by economic reason.

According to a new survey by the employer-related Institute of the German Economy (IW), the biggest gaps in skilled workers are in the care of the elderly and the sick, in day-care centers and social work - occupations in which mainly women work. Fahimi says poor working conditions mean that women often reduce their working hours.

Two laws should help

Specifically, Fahimi calls for the "unsuccessful Pay Transparency Act" to be improved. The law allows employees to request information about the earnings of colleagues with comparable tasks. However, the entitlement only applies to companies with more than 200 employees. In addition, Fahimi calls for a right of collective action, with which trade unions could support employees who want to sue for their rights under the law.

Heil reiterated that his government would improve the Pay Transparency Act under the leadership of Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens). Those affected should then be able to be represented in court by third parties.

But according to Heil's ideas, the position of women in the workplace must be strengthened in various ways. Childcare needs to be expanded further. And: "It's above all the sectors in which women work where collective agreements are too thin," he says. "That's why I will be presenting a law to strengthen collective bargaining this year," Heil affirmed. At the federal level, too, public contracts should only go to companies bound by collective bargaining agreements.

There are also large differences in retirement age

At retirement age, the income gap between men and women widens. With gross annual income of 17,814 euros, women aged 65 and over were well behind men of the same age in 2021, according to the Federal Statistical Office. These came to 25,407 euros. The income gap was 29.9 percent. Because of their lower income, women are more at risk of poverty in old age and more often overwhelmed by housing costs than men.

The subject of discrimination against women is assessed differently in the population. According to a survey, half of Germans consider it a major problem. Almost as many don't see it that way. As a representative survey for the CDU-affiliated Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation showed, there are clear differences depending on the age of the participants.

Accordingly, there is a narrow majority for political measures to promote gender equality. 51 percent would support it if supervisory board positions in large companies had to be filled equally by men and women. A quarter was against it, about as many undecided.