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Press Statement by Maria Weber, Main Department "Women in the DGB," on the Working Woman and the Social Situation of the Family (August 30, 1960)

The DGB [Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund or Confederation of German Trade Unions] pointed to several reasons for the rising ratio of working women in West Germany: they included the strong need for workers during the boom years of the “Economic Miracle,” shifts in the occupational structure toward the “more woman-friendly” service sector, and longer life expectancies, which allowed women additional phases of employment after they were done raising their children. Since all of these causes were long-term, the women organized in the DGB demanded that women’s work no longer be seen as a temporary stopgap measure, and that the discrepancies in training, pay, and the organization of the workplace that arose from this viewpoint be rapidly dismantled. At the same time, they call for socio-political measures to promote families, so that fewer women would be compelled to join the workforce out of economic necessity.

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The percentage of working women relative to the entire workforce is constantly growing. In September 1948, working women represented 28.5 percent of the workforce; today that figure has risen to 34 percent. Likewise, the percentage of married women in the workforce has grown as well.

This development was brought about by the economy’s constantly growing demand for more labor forces. After almost 100 percent of men of employable age had been employed in the workforce, the focus shifted primarily to women, and to housewives and mothers at that. Such women were lured in by promising descriptions of workplace conditions.

For this reason, the DGB feels compelled to express its views, once again, on the social problems of working women. In the coming months, the main department “Women in the DGB” will work together with the Women’s Secretariats of the DGB-state districts to organize twenty-nine central meetings for union women through federal territory.

In this, the DGB is operating under the conclusion that,
1. Women’s work is an indispensable contribution to the economy today and will remain so in the future;
2. women’s work is no longer a temporary situation;
3. despite increasing automation, the woman, as a worker, will be needed and
4. through the elevation of the standard of living and the extension of time off, the expansion of employment in non-producing areas will proceed, and this expansion will see an ever greater percentage of women in the workforce.

On top of this, today’s compulsory military service will remove a significant portion of employable young men from working life for a year. Women will take their place at work, and additionally, many women will be employed by the Bundeswehr itself.

Changes in Women’s Life Trajectories
On the other hand, according to the union view, consideration must be given to the otherwise too little considered fact that, through longer life expectancies, decisive differences in a woman’s life trajectory have arisen. Whereas around 1900, the average life expectancy was around 48 years, it is now 68 years. Therefore, the period in which the woman is occupied with raising children now accounts for only about one-third of the duration of her entire life. Thus, in general, now it is not only just the growing girl who participates in the workforce until she gets married or has a child; rather, women frequently reinter the workforce when their children are grown, when the mother no longer feels overburdened, and if the corresponding impetus to return to work exists.

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