Gender pay gap in Germany narrows - but still higher than EU average

Gender pay gap in Germany narrows - but still higher than EU average

The gender pay gap in Germany shrank by slim 1 percent in 2019, but remains significantly larger than the European Union average. In fact, the federal republic has the bloc’s second-worst gender pay gap, after Estonia. 

Gender pay gap in Germany slowly shrinking

Women in Germany took home 19 percent less than men in 2019, according to figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) this week. The difference in earnings between men and women in the federal republic - the so-called unadjusted gender pay gap - was therefore one percentage point lower than in 2018, and fell below 20 percent for the first time ever. “Viewed over a longer period of time, a slow but steady decline can be observed in Germany,” the report stated. 

The unadjusted gender pay gap compares the average earnings of all employees, irrespective or job or qualifications. Experts in Germany generally attribute the difference in earnings to the fact that women are more likely to work in industries and occupations that command lower salaries, and are less likely to reach management positions. Since women still carry out the bulk of childcare and housekeeping responsibilities, they are also more likely to work reduced hours

Adjusted pay gap stagnating

However, these factors alone cannot explain the continued discrepancy between male and female earnings in Germany: when the wage gap is evaluated for men and women with comparable qualifications, working the same hours in the same kinds of jobs, there is still a wage gap of 6 percent. 

Data on this so-called adjusted gender pay gap is collected every four years and shows that progress in Germany is moving even more slowly: it has now been stuck at 6 percent since 2014; in 2010 the difference was 7 percent and in 2006 8 percent.  

Gender pay gap smaller in eastern Germany

Interestingly, however, the figures show that there are clear differences within Germany, with the eastern federal states posting smaller unadjusted gender pay gap figures than western Germany.

According to Destatis, in the states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, the gender pay gap was 7 percent, on average, compared to 19 percent in the western federal states - suggesting that income inequality in the west is actually the major driver of the gender pay gap in Germany. 

The difference can be attributed to the fact that wages are generally lower in eastern Germany, but also to cultural patterns that were established in the east prior to reunification, such as the widespread availability of childcare and high female workforce participation. 

Average gender pay gap in EU is 15 percent

The EU has not yet published figures for 2019, but at the end of 2018 the average gender pay gap in the bloc was 15 percent. Germany’s 2019 figure of 19 percent is therefore way above the EU average. Last year, the federal republic actually ranked second worst out of the 28 member states. Only Estonia, with a gender pay gap of 22 percent, performed worse. 

Austria, Czechia, the UK, Slovakia and Latvia were all on a similar level to Germany in 2018. The EU countries with the narrowest gender pay gaps were Luxembourg (1 percent), Romania (2 percent) and Italy (4 percent). 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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