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Germany’s Battle with Regional Pay Gap

Gender pay gaps know no borders, and in Eastern Germany, women are earning more than their male counterparts. Surprisingly, Eastern and Western Germany have different levels of wage gaps between men and women.

Germany’s pay rates vary from region to region primarily due to certain areas specializing in trade sectors traditionally occupied by men, such as engineering or construction, where men benefit more in terms of income.

A recent study by IAB has discovered that in some areas, like Cottbus, women earn roughly 17 percent more than men, yet places such as Ingolstadt have a 36.9 percent difference that favors men.

Other regions where male workers earn more than women include the Lake Constance district with a 33.6 percent wage gap, Erlangen with 32.4 percent, and Böblingen with 35.9 percent.

“It seems to be the case that the availability of certain jobs for men in a region is crucial for determining the area’s gender pay gap,” said IAB researcher Michaela Fuchs. “Where men earn less, there’s a tendency for a pay gap in favor of women. Where men earn more, we see a pay gap which benefits men.”

The country also has a larger overall gender wage gap about 21 percent when compared to the European Union average of 16 percent.

While women in some areas are earning a greater income than men, that is not true in all of Germany. Women still face the harsh reality of the gender pay gap throughout the country.  

One reason for this significant disparity in salary is the attitude that “women’s jobs” are less valued than men’s. Traditionally, women were seen as less capable or competent when compared to men, therefore jobs primarily occupied by women could not be held or compensated on the same level as a “man’s job,” according to labor market expert Sarah Lillemeier.

“There are a lot of injustices in the wages of women compared to men but a large part of the difference is due to the industry and profession they tend to choose, how long they have been working in their job, and if they work full or part time,” said Helmut Uder, a consulting firm expert.

Another reason for the variation is that career women are treated differently in West and East Germany. In the East, there is a more gender-neutral approach to positions of authority, according to Melanie Alperstaedt, who works for Berlin’s DDR Museum. That attitude is not generally seen in the Western region.

Alperstaedt stated that although the East appears to be more gender-neutral, women are still expected to do housework and actually earn lower wages when compared to the rest of Germany

“The politicians didn’t care that much about equality,” said Alperstaedt. “They needed women to work in industry, in the economy and so they encouraged them.”

Differing social norms between two regions of one country continue to feed the wage gap. Though the Wage Transparency Act recently passed in Germany, a number of possible consequences have risen, such as a drop in merit-based rewards and a flattened pay.

Germany’s gap has lessened at a snail’s pace and it’s got a long way to go before women in the Western region are properly compensated for their work.

Featured Image by Alexander Cahlenstein on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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