Children – Why all the fuss?
For women, on top of all that, comes discrimination in the professional world. The labor market holds space for them mostly in the textile and clothing industries and in the service sector and health care. Seventy-seven percent of gainfully employed women work in only sixteen different occupations. Although the Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Research at the Federal Agency for Labor in Nuremberg has recently determined that women could very well assume more than one third of all jobs presently held by men, roughly 480,000 women are unemployed. Not only do they lack “appropriate qualifications,” as managers have divulged to the vocational research institute, they are also prematurely catapulted out of the professional world by mutual agreement of works councils and employers.
Employers and employee representatives invented the notion of an “employment agreement” that women can retire as early as age sixty. Consequently, working women who have turned sixty are often enough forced to leave their jobs. Exceptions are made only for hardship cases, and what is considered a hardship case is again decided by the works councils and employers.
This generation of single women has a bad deal anyway. During the war and in the postwar years, they usually had to temporarily abandon their careers to raise the postwar generation and do reconstruction work for society. The state did not give them credit for these years in their pension funds since they were neither soldiers nor prisoners of war. The situation of young mothers is similar. In its 109 Tips for the Woman, the federal government generously assured in April 1976 that: “A woman can also give her notice following the motherhood protection period* in order to devote more attention to her child.” If a women follows this advice she loses all entitlement to her former workplace, as is guaranteed, for example, for soldiers released to serve in the army, but the politicians in the coalition government failed to mention that in their informational brochure before the federal election campaign.
Working women have to tolerate additional disadvantages. They continue to dream of equal pay for equal work, of greater responsibility and less subordinate positions. Their taking refuge in the household is usually a result of bad experiences in professional life. To this extent the findings of the family ministry thus need to be viewed as ambiguous: Of the roughly 550,000 working mothers with at least one child under the age of three, two-thirds would be willing to give up their jobs if they received a parental leave allowance. This does not have to mean they also want to give up their careers, and certainly not forever.
*According to Germany’s Mutterschutz regulations, employed women cannot be forced to work from 6 weeks before delivery to 8 weeks after and are protected from job termination for four months after they give birth – trans.