1 in 11 workers in Germany experiences sexual harassment

1 in 11 workers in Germany experiences sexual harassment

1 in 11 workers in Germany experiences sexual harassment

Suggestive jokes, inappropriate touching, unwanted sexual advances: whatever form it takes, it’s never acceptable. But according to a new government study, sexual harassment in the workplace is on the rise in Germany. 

Workplace sexual harassment on the rise in Germany

A representative government survey published this week has revealed that more people working in Germany are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace than four years ago. 

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency found that one in 11 has been the victim of unwanted sexual comments or advances in the last three years. Back in 2015, the last time a similar study was conducted, only one in 14 employees reported being harassed. 

According to the survey, for which 1.531 people were interviewed over a three-year period, women are more than twice as likely as men to be affected. 13 percent - one in eight - reported being subjected to such incidents, compared to 5 percent of men. 

Victims report sexual comments, touching and emails

While the majority (62 percent) of harassment took the form of lewd comments and jokes, 44 percent of respondents reported inappropriate looks or gestures, or even wolf-whistling, a full 26 percent complained of unwanted touching or sexual approaches and a further 22 percent of inappropriate invitations to private meetings.

Many reported being sent sexual images or suggestive emails and messages via social media or mobile phones. In the worst cases, some had been the victim of physical coercion or even blackmail. By far the majority (four out of five) said that these were not one-off incidents. 

Majority of perpetrators are men

Over half (53 percent) of the harassment was carried out by third parties such as customers, patients or clients - reflecting the fact that those working in the health and social care professions reported the highest number of sexual assaults. Another 43 percent of victims reported being harassed by a work colleague - 19 percent by a superior. 

According to the survey, men are the primary culprits when it comes to sexual harassment - 82 percent of all victims - and a full 98 percent of female victims - reported that the perpetrator was male. 39 percent of male victims were also targeted by male harassers. 

Victims rarely seek help from employers

“Sexual harassment at work is a serious problem and can have serious consequences for those affected,” said Bernhard Franke, acting head of the Anti-Discrimination Agency. He said that German companies had to do more to prevent sexual harassment and intervene when it does occur. 

Although German labour law requires employers to protect their workers from sexual harassment, the survey also found that very few victims (four in 10) turn to their employer for help to resolve the issue, fearing career repercussions such as losing their job or being passed over for promotions. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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