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Speech by Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, at the “Closing the Pay Gap” side event

14.03.2019 - Speech

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Introduction Equal Pay Day

Next Monday, Equal Pay Day will be held in Germany for the eleventh time.
And if the pay gap in Germany continues to close at the same rate as it has until now, we will be celebrating Equal Pay Day for the last time in 2120.
Not us, but our great-grandchildren.

We cannot settle for this, of course. “Equal pay for equal  work and work of equal value” – is our  goal. 

There are many reasons for the pay gap. And that is why a variety of approaches are needed to close it.  

2. Statutory regulations:


The Act to promote Transparency in Wage Structures among Women and Men and the Act on the Equal Participation of Women and Men in Executive Positions in the Private and the Public Sector

This much is clear: We need statutory regulations to make businesses fulfil their obligations.

Businesses have a responsibility.
To ensure transparency: who earns what in my business and why?
To ensure fairness: what can I do to close the pay gap in my business? 

The Act to promote Transparency in Wage Structures among Women and Men has been in force in Germany since January of last year. It allows employees to demand information on company wage policies from their employer.

We also have the Act on the Equal Participation of Women and Men in Executive Positions.

The gender quota in private business and in the public service.

We are seeing that the fixed statutory gender quota works. The proportion of women on the supervisory boards of companies that fall under the Act is currently at 30.9 per cent.

However, the proportion of women on the executive boards of these same companies is barely 6 per cent.

That is because, in the latter case, there is no fixed quota, merely voluntary commitments instead.

And here, nothing is happening:

Of all the companies that fall under the Act, 81 per cent have committed either to target zero, with respect to the number of women on their executive board, or refrain from setting a target figure at all.
We want to change this.

We will be making it more difficult for enterprises to shirk their responsibility by either not committing or reporting zero progress.
Furthermore, we need binding sanctions in the event of non-compliance.

3. Social professions

When speaking of greater pay equity in Germany, we must also take a look at the social professions in particular.

Those employed in the social professions are predominantly women.
Enhancing the value of these professions is also a means of closing the pay gap.

The women and men who work in social professions have undergone demanding training for what is a demanding job.

However, there is not enough appreciation for their work. And this already begins in their vocational training, which is often unpaid and for which, on the contrary, tuition fees even have to be paid.

Something must be done to improve this situation. This is why, last year, with the Act on Nursing Professions we reformed nursing training in Germany starting in 2020. No more tuition fees. Instead, a trainee salary.

What we already managed to achieve with the nursing professions, we still have ahead of us with child care professionals.
A first step in this direction will be the skilled-labour campaign for child care professionals to be launched this summer at the beginning of the training year.

With this campaign to recruit skilled staff we aim to achieve three goals:

  • more places in paid practice-integrated training,
  • good practical instruction, and 
  • new prospects for professional advancement.

These three elements also make a good career in nursery school teaching and child care possible.

We also want to facilitate better working conditions and better pay after training. And we should not wait until 2120 to do it.

4. Conclusion

However, it might actually take another hundred years to close the pay gap globally.

This is why Germany is committed to gender equality and economically strengthening women at the international level as well.

We are not doing this on our own, but together with our allies worldwide: with social partners, with progressive businesses, with civil society. And with you! I wish to thank you all for your commitment to pay equity! 

And I thank the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, the Federal Foreign Office and the Permanent Mission for this forum, which allows us to exchange our experiences this afternoon.

I very much look forward to the many exciting contributions and exchanging ideas with all of you.

Thank you! 

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