Gendered Disparities in the German Workforce: Development of Female Labor Union Participation and Current Challenges

Kelly Ancharski
2016 Claremont-UC Undergraduate Research Conference on the European Union  
With an increasing global female presence in political and economic representation, the continuation of a gendered division of labor and the rise of market flexibility draws into question how historical policies and decision making influence sociocultural-value systems, mobility, and market access in Germany. This paper explores the German labor market through the critical lens of labor union formulation, the dynamics within a German-European Union relationship, and social policy reforms to
more » ... ver the reasoning and rationale behind the reinforcement of female labor as precarious. An inclusive discourse on correcting imbalances within the formal/public and informal/private spheres must include the devaluing and exploitation of domestic and feminized labor. For Germany, the consistent segregation of female labor into part-time work and social policies that emphasize motherhood and childrearing stress the historical socioeconomic disincentives to enter and retain work within the productive economy. 2 Although female participation in the labor force has risen across various European states, sociocultural exclusion from the decision-making process on policies and within labor relations has effectively excluded women from entering and remaining in economic markets. For Germany, the position of female labor is one of disproportionality coupled with a wave of global feminization of labor and a reproduction of historical family policy dictated on the breadwinner model. Despite extensive historical involvement in early labor movements, German women, specifically single, unmarried, and migrant women, face an indirect discrimination and thus, the labor market is defined by dichotomized labor stratification, overwhelmingly confined to part-time, domestic, or service-oriented employment. This paper examines the effects of the European debt crisis, welfare reforms, and the current employment market in order to shed light on, not just data compilations, but division of labor as a systemic manifestation influenced and constrained by historical and social policy dynamics. Taking into account the complexities of a conservative-centric welfare state (Esping-Andersen, 1990), German Unification, and post-World War II developments, European integration, and the rise of ordoliberalism, the necessary conditions for fostering an inclusive environment and equalized labor rights are absent. Participation remains stagnant, with 47% of women comprising the total formal workforce since 2008 (currently at 33.9% for full-time and 79.5% for part-time labor) and a high gender employment wage gap of 22% compared to the European Union (EU) average of 16% (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2013). Furthermore, the division of full-time and part-time positions underscores the entrenched traditional division of labor in the German economy, emphasized through a longstanding value system of gender-based dualism. Access to the labor market can be represented through empirical data, i.e. total female participation in the workforce and the gender pay differentials, but beyond mere percentages, factors of part-time and informal markets signify a dependent patriarchal exploitation of labor (Mies, 1998 ) (Young, 1996. The existence of a gendered division of labor-the system of labor that segregates type of work and available market access by sex/gender-is not a singular occurrence or novel to political, economic, and cultural research (Peterson, 2012) . It is a reflection of an overall decreasing trend of labor rights in a globalized market and an increasing influx of immigration and asylum seekers, simultaneous with higher rates of gender visibility and attention to inclusive social stability that indicates an omnipresent questioning of a state's role in economic growth (Ely, 2006 ) (Ong, 1991 . This paper illustrates that when analyzing the persistent female responsibility for domestic production, "the cult of domesticity," (Keister & Southgate, 2012, p. 228) and the disproportionality of labor markets, there must be a comprehensive discourse on the myriad of factors influencing gender-based labor division. The historical orientation of labor unions, the process of labor feminization, and masculinist public policies sustain a capitalist and patriarchal perspective of female labor as undervalued and unproductive, falling outside of most state regulation (Keister & Southgate, 2012) . Starting in the context of European economic transition from feudal to capitalist and the introduction of labor commodification during the industrialization process, surveying the impact of the German welfare system on labor market access, and highlighting the recent reforms to family policy and market challenges during the past two decades, this analysis seeks to uncover the disparities in the German workforce as a historical legacy of policies and institutions that cement definitions of female labor participation as precarious.
doi:10.5642/urceu.201501.03 fatcat:ixrxu5ck3bfcfppavvyy7r5xye