Germany’s virus stimulus disproportionately benefits men, study warns

According to a study, the majority of the recovery package funding went to sectors that employ more men than women. [EPA-EFE | Ronald Wittek]

The German government’s coronavirus stimulus package from July benefits men more than women, according to a recent study by the University of Applied Sciences Fulda. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The study assessed the stimulus package according to the “3-R method”: representation, resources and reality.

According to this method, 73% (€121.2 billion) of the funds is allocated to sectors in which men are in the majority, such as the construction and automotive industries. Only 4.2% (€6.95 billion) is for the benefit of women, through spending on social institutions or culture, for example.

The remainder (22.8%) is either distributed along gender-neutral lines or no effect is yet foreseeable, the study claims. This includes spending on vocational training.

The economic stimulus package was specifically formulated in a gender-neutral manner. Paradoxically, however, this is precisely why it increasingly supports men. It works like a magnifying glass that reveals existing inequalities.

“The measures are therefore not suitable for cushioning the gender-specific consequences of the crisis, but it can be assumed that they will reinforce them,” the study concludes.

“One can see that existing structures, which have always been seen as problematic, are now increasingly leading to injustice,” MP Ulle Schauws, women’s and queer policy spokeswoman for the Greens in the Bundestag, told EURACTIV Germany.

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Follow the money

The Greens demanded in July that the economic stimulus package should not have been formulated in a gender-neutral way, but should have included a gender-specific impact assessment.

The devil is often in the details, for example in spending on childcare and healthcare facilities. Although the majority of these facilities employ women, much of the money is spent on construction measures, and thus in a male-dominated sector. Women benefit indirectly from such measures, but not financially, according to the study.

Schauws also considers the design of the short-time work allowance to be a “blatant omission”, because it discriminates against married women.

Tax class 5 is to blame: it consists largely of married women, who have to give up a correspondingly large proportion of their gross wages.

However, the basis for calculating the short-time work allowance is the net wage. Thus, many married women lose hundreds of euros simply because of their tax class, Schauws calculates. “She can’t get that back anywhere else,” she said.

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“Giffey is not in the first row”

To all of this, the Greens had submitted a motion in the summer, demanding, for example, a gender-specific impact assessment or a different calculation of the short-time work allowance.

However, according to Schauws, the governing coalition stonewalled and gave the request “zero response”. “Now we have to consider what else we can do in parliament,” she added.

Even apart from the economic stimulus package, Schauws still sees areas of improvement in the government’s coronavirus management.

The coronavirus cabinet lacks voices that insist on gender justice. For example, the Minister of Family Affairs and Women’s Affairs, Franziska Giffey, should have a place in this group.

“Giffey is still not in the first row,” Schauws complained.

She also calls for a Crisis Council for Gender Equality, which would monitor the gendered aspects of the crisis. It should consist of experts and scientists based in the Chancellery.

“This is not witchcraft,” said Schauws.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

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