World economic forum analysis women and men are equal globally in 136 years

The Corona pandemic reinforces inequality between women and men. In Germany, this is mainly reflected in how much women work in which jobs and who takes care of children and family.

At the current rate, it will take another 136 years on average worldwide for women and men to achieve equality – calculated on the basis of various criteria such as political participation, access to health and education, and economic opportunities.

This is the result of an analysis by the World Economic Forum Foundation. A large part of this is due to the Corona pandemic, which increases inequality between women and men. "However, even before Corona, there was little progress in equality on average worldwide", says Julia Schmieder, research associate in the Gender Economics Research Group at the German Institute for Economic Research.

That the pandemic has increased inequality is due to several reasons:

  • Women are more likely to work in professions that are affected by contact restrictions, such as catering and retailing
  • In almost all countries, women are more likely to take care of children and family (care work), so they are more affected by, for example, daycare and school closures
  • According to the German Federal Statistical Office, there are about 400.000 single fathers, but 2.2 million single mothers particularly affected by Corona measures

Graph of gender inequality around the world

Many more women work part-time

One way to see how equality is doing is to look at wage equality: In Germany, the gender gap in wages is around 30 percent – this does not mean that women have a 30 percent lower hourly wage, but describes the earned income per year for the entire population. In concrete terms, wage inequality, when viewed as a whole, has several causes:

  • Fewer women than men work at all
  • Significantly more women (48 percent) than men (11 percent) work part-time in Germany
  • More women than men tend to work in low-paid jobs
  • There is also a difference in hourly pay for comparable work – even if, depending on how you interpret it, it’s not very big in Germany at all

Some northern European countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Iceland, perform better than others in terms of equality. Julia Schmieder of the German Institute for Economic Research says: "In these countries, women also work part-time and take time off, for example, after the birth of a child. But the men there would do the same – at least more than in other countries.

And that’s something that policy can also promote. Julia Schmieder: "The policy in these countries is based on the assumption that the parents share the work of earning a living and caring for their children equally." This can be seen, for example, in the partner months in parental benefits, which have been in place for a long time, as well as in good childcare across the country.

Marital splitting promotes inequality

Abolishing the marital tax credit is also an important part of promoting equality, she says. This tax model, in short, leads to a model where one partner earns a lot and the other earns little. Currently in Germany it is mostly the man who earns more than the woman, so that the rule, which theoretically does not promote inequality between women and men, in fact does.

On the one hand, Julia Schmieder is optimistic that marriage tax splitting will be reformed, because proposals to that effect can be found in various election programs for the 2021 federal election. On the other hand, she says, "Proposals used to exist too. And so far it has always failed to be implemented."

  • 01. April 2021
  • Presenter: Diane Hielscher
  • Interlocutor: Julia Schmieder, Research Fellow in the Gender Economics Research Group at the German Institute for Economic Research

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