German flag – Credit © European Union, 2011
The model of the “three K” is certainly no stranger to this situation
Alliteration means “Kinder, Kirche, Küche” (ie children, church, kitchen) and corresponds to what can be defined as representing traditional values assigned to women. “The three K” are rooted in the nineteenth century to the time of Emperor Wilhelm II.
Very strong before and during the Second World War (Hitler had the “battlefield” unique to women), this model loses its strength, especially in East Germany that promotes the equal representation of men and women. The quota of working women increased after the war due to lack of manpower, but for a limited time. Soon, the woman is returned to the kitchen, pursued by the “three Ks” and it’s still today. In fact, despite slogans of the DDR, the domestic sphere remains women’s affair, whatever they do outside.
In 1980-1990, the model of “three K” returns to the front of the stage but positively. The model of some women managed to combine the “three K” with a career: the “three K” are replaced with “four K”: "Kinder, Küche, Kirche und Karriere”. Then a new model of woman is created, the one of a super-woman who happens to manage everything. Is the German woman yet to envy?
Gender inequality still marked
The German government is pinned in recent years because of disparities between men and women. Despite this, it seems that the Rhine system also hampers the four irons to implement gender equality in the professional field.
Currently, Germany is one of the European countries where the wage gap between men and women are the most important (23.2% in 2008 against 18% on average in the European Union). Women are less likely to work (despite a steady increase, the share of working women is 45.8%) and more importantly, they are much less represented in higher levels (in 2009, there were only 25.1 % women in the category of managers and entrepreneurs).
Apart from wage differentials, what explains the low number of working women?
One explanation is that they do not need it, or at least less necessary than in other EU countries, because men earn enough. Women do not then perhaps need to have a job at any price. In addition, institutions are unsuited to women’s work: the school ends early and the structures hosting the early childhood are inadequate and mostly insufficient.
Halftime jobs really interesting for women are too few or on the contrary, too many for menial jobs rarely fitting with the training of women.
Besides, the mentality and tradition play a very important role in our German neighbors. The Church has long given the role superior to men for whom it is normal that the woman takes care of the home. And God knows that the Church has a very important role in Germany: it is rich and very influential.
The government’s position on the parity
Other reasons, certainly the most blinding, are due to the Government : why does the German government not put it in place measures to improve the situation of women? At the economic level, there are fears of a rise in unemployment following the promotion of women’s work. Moreover, the structures covering maternity are expensive.
If Angela Merkel refuses the constraint, yet used by other countries to impose parity, what solutions are possible? Workplace discrimination are sanctioned since 2006 but the proof is difficult and the problem of wages are impossible to fight in this way.
The fatal consequence of this is that women are forced by society to remain inactive. Often, it is not worth because of the salary, the jobs they get, which are often of lesser value, the money they receive as mothers, etc.. Those who do not yield to this social pressure will continue to work, but their desire for children will become secondary. The low representation of women in upper echelons of society does not help the situation.
This “Teufelskreis” in German is dramatic: the birth rate decreases, which causes particular problems in terms of retirement and demographics.
Women in the era of “three K” were able to take their game: they were more socially active, either through their family or the church (they attended more than men), while that now it seems that their situation is becoming more burdensome to carry and difficult to change.
Political work must be undertaken and attitudes must change to restore Germany’s golden letters of economic power, especially in a European context eager to advance gender equality. As already showed by the European Council’s Resolution of 29 June 2000: “The principle of equality between men and women requires to offset the disadvantage of women as regards the conditions for access and participation in the world of work and male disadvantage in terms of conditions for participation in family life.”