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Women in Germany earn half as much as men in their lifetime

Women in Germany earn half as much as men in their lifetime

According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, women in Germany only earn half as much as men over the course of their entire lifetime. The study also showed that women who get married in Germany can close the gap if their partner’s income is used to support them in a “traditional role”.

Single mothers lose out in German system

The study showed that, for many married women, their partner's income compensates for their loss of income after childbirth. During this time, many women lose out on opportunities for promotion and are unable to make the same progress in their career as their male counterparts. 

For single mothers, the issue is even more difficult, since there is no partner to make up the difference. Of course, German social security from the state can help to close the gap, but Bertelsmann’s study found that these funds were insufficient to completely fix the inequality. 

Today, married mothers and fathers in their mid-30s have approximately 700.000 euros at their disposal during their main working years after taxes, transfers and family benefits. By comparison, single mothers of the same age only get around 520.000 euros.

Social security is often geared towards married couples

One of the biggest issues according to the study is that social security is still created with married couples in mind, which exacerbates problems for single parents. "Many of the family-related benefits are still geared towards marital relationships - such as spouse splitting or non-contributory co-insurance," said the study author Timm Bönke. 

The authors of the study went on to criticise the existing social security model in Germany, saying that single-parent families suffer due to the limited options available to them. According to the authors, the combination of spouse splitting, tax-free jobs (so-called "mini-jobs") and a lack of options when it comes to childcare provide strong incentives for a “traditional” split in gender roles. This means that many women are worse off over the course of their lifetime, despite living to an older age than their male counterparts.

The study concludes that in order to promote equality, welfare benefits that promote a specific way of life should be abolished in favour of a more equal system - recognising that families today come in all shapes and sizes and that financial support to assist parents and children should do so without only catering to certain ways of life.

Emily Proctor

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Emily Proctor

Emily studied International Relations and Chinese, and is now undertaking Master's degree in International Security. She enjoys writing, cooking, and playing piano.

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