Back to the old role model: Corona crisis threatens equality

Back to the old role model
Corona crisis threatens equality

Women become unemployed more often and are hardly represented in Corona crisis teams: The pandemic threatens to become a step backwards for equality. This is now also proven by an EU report. Members of the Bundestag are calling for a rethink in all areas.

Before International Women’s Day, there is growing concern about the devastating effects of the corona pandemic on women’s equality. The EU Commission presented a report on this. “In Europe and beyond, the pandemic has exacerbated the existing inequalities between women and men in almost all areas of life and undermined hard-won progress made in recent years,” said the Brussels authority. In the Bundestag, women politicians called across parliamentary groups not to let women become the losers of the Corona crisis.

“Women in crisis, these are the superheroes,” said the Union parliamentary group deputy chief Nadine Schön. We have to ensure that the pandemic “does not become a step backwards” for women. The Corona year should not become a permanent career break. Her SPD colleague Katja Mast pointed out that the pandemic is intensifying old roles. “We have to break these patterns.” The warning from the politicians is no coincidence: the EU report published at the same time shows how existing inequalities between men and women are worsening again as a result of the pandemic.

According to Eurostat, unemployment among women rose from 6.9 to 7.9 percent between April and September 2020, and among men from 6.5 to 7.1 percent in the same period. This could – with a view to pensions, for example – also have an impact far into the future and widen the inequality between men and women for decades. According to a US study, it is more women who reduce their working hours or even quit to look after children, according to the report, although specific figures for the EU countries are not available.

“There is still a long way to go to real equality”

“These patterns have strengthened traditional gender roles,” the report says. It is also criticized that there is a “blatant” shortage of women in Corona crisis teams. A study that also looked at 17 EU countries showed that more than 85 percent of these bodies are mainly male. “Involving women in these decisions is very important,” the report stresses. In contrast, 86 percent of nurses are female, according to the commission. “Although women make up the vast majority of health workers in the EU, women are being held back from leadership positions in the health sector,” it said. Around 25 percent of employed women worked in high-risk sectors of the pandemic, and among employed men it was 20 percent.

In the Bundestag debate, which was largely led by women, FDP MP Nicole Bauer demanded “respect for the many women who worked at supermarket checkouts, daycare centers, hospitals and old people’s homes every day during the pandemic”. A “cultural change in parties and companies” is necessary. Family and Women’s Minister Franziska Giffey emphasized with a view to the Corona crisis: “In many places women keep the store running.” The SPD politician demanded, among other things, an upgrading of social professions and equal pay for men and women.

The Green women’s politician Ulle Schauws emphasized: “The pandemic shows us painfully as a society that the way to real equality is still a long way.” There is no problem of knowledge, but of an action problem. “What is needed is a feminist government that understands equality as a central democratic issue and implements it consistently in government activities.” The AfD MP Mariana Iris Harder-Kühnel saw achievements for women endangered by the migration policy of the federal government.

Giffey: We have achieved a lot, but still have a lot to do

Giffey admitted: “We still have development potential, that’s no question.” At the same time, however, she referred to what had already been achieved and emphasized: “For the very first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany we have a cross-departmental equality strategy.” In a press conference, the SPD politician later said that a lot had been achieved in the past hundred years, for example in the compatibility of family and work. Still, there is much more to be done. It is not only about participation in politics and business, but also about money: “Equal wages for equal work, that is one of the big fighting topics on International Women’s Day.”

International Women’s Day was organized for the first time on March 19, 1911 in Germany and neighboring countries as well as the USA at the suggestion of the German Social Democrat Clara Zetkin. It has been celebrated on March 8th every year since 1921. It has been a public holiday in the state of Berlin since 2019.

“The good news is that we feminists have the wind of history in our sails,” said former Left Chairwoman Katja Kipping. “It is progress that cannot be stopped because we will fight for it.”

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