Delivered by State Secretary Juliane Seifert, Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
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I am glad to have the possibility to speak to you not only because I speak for the German government but also because Germany holds the EU Council Presidency right now and I am even more glad that we chose gender equality as one of our priorities during this time. This pandemic reaffirms that this topic was the right choice, because COVID-19 makes existing inequalities between men and women even more obvious. Thus, we put a special focus on men and women in the labor market and on the unequal distribution between unpaid care work and paid work between men and women.
We all know that the time women spend on unpaid care work is time when they cannot work in paid employment, when they cannot advance their careers, when they cannot work towards their pensions.
So, two things have become very clear during the crisis:
Firstly: public infrastructure is essential. Men and women need support in their care work responsibilities. That is why we invest in public child care – in nurseries and by extending after-school care in primary schools.
Secondly: we need men and women to share the load. We need equal distribution of paid and unpaid work between women and men. That is why we promote policies that enable women and men to share their employment and care work as partners. In 2007, Germany introduced the so-called Parental Allowance. It is the most popular and the best-known benefit for families in Germany – each year, two million families participate in it. In the first 14 months after the birth of their child, new parents receive financial support from the state. This allows mother and father to take a break in their careers or to reduce their working hours. Thirteen years ago was the first step. Nowadays we are improving our instruments and benefits to foster the idea of partnership between parents, because we know that men and women both want to work and want to have time for their children.
A good sign from the last few months was that recent studies about the lockdown showed us that care between men and women was distributed less unequally than before. I think this gives us some motivation, because it shows that it makes sense to work hard for more gender equality, because progress is really possible.
That is why over the next five years, we want to make the topic of gender-equal distribution of care work a joint focus of the Action Coalition.
I am looking forward to working with you on this important Topic!