Women 20 summit: Women’s empowerment should begin with tackling low wages

Women's empowerment

The Women 20 (W20) summit, convened by Chancellor Angela Merkel, was held in Berlin on April 24 to 26 as part of Germany’s G20 presidency. Discussing the event, Barbara Unmüßig, board member of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, has the following to say:

“Women all over the world are disproportionately affected by inequality and poverty, thus placing them at a disadvantage when participating in politics, the economy and the digital arena. For this reason, this topic has a rightful and important place on the agenda of the G20. There is an urgent need for initiatives that focus on strengthening and institutionalizing the political and equitable economic participation of women. Germany is in no way a shining example in this regard. In fact, with a gender pay gap of a striking 21 per cent, it ranks as the 4th worst country in Europe. Thus, Germany would do well to do its homework before prevailing upon other countries.”

The G20 had already decided in 2014 to increase women’s share of employment in the world labor markets. However, according to the international labor organization ILO, the share of women in regular employment has steadily declined between 1995 and 2015. Worldwide, the chances of employment for women are now 27 per cent lower than for men, says Unmüßig.

“And there we’re not even talking about equal pay,” she continues. “The effort on the part of the G20 to drive the inclusion of women in the labor market and in the digital and financial sector should be accompanied with a thorough analysis of its growth and investment strategy. Very often, focusing on public-private partnerships (PPPs) when investing in public infrastructure has fatal consequences especially for women. The privatization of services such as energy, water and transport or, especially, of social sectors such as education and health, leads to spiraling prices for customers and to wage cuts for employees—a process during which women usually get the shortest end of the stick.”

“Yet, New Zealand shows us that it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Unmüßig. “Only a few days ago, the government decided on a massive increase of the minimum incomes in the caring professions, which are female-dominated. Indeed, wages are being increased by up to 47 percent depending on the category, which represents an additional cost of 330 million euros annually for the government budget. In this way, New Zealand is giving a value to activities that are crucial to society and offering women a fair and dignified means of livelihood. I believe that the German Federal Government should take it upon itself to go this route as well.”

“Unfortunately, the Women 20 summit suffers from tunnel vision. The posh boardrooms of corporations as well as most of society tend to ignore the harsh day-to-day realities of millions of women in Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. Economic empowerment and participation of women cannot be limited to promoting female entrepreneurship. Instead, it has to start with the women all over the world who are forced to perform unpaid or underpaid work as a result of a lack of societal, political and financial recognition. After all, the functioning of the economy and society depends on this labor,” said Unmüßig today in Berlin.

More information on the financial and investment policy of the G20 and on Germany’s G20 presidency can be found at G20 in Focus, Heinrich Böll Foundation’s information portal offering interactive infographics, comparative maps, fact sheets, studies as well as both basic and more in-depth information on the G20 and the individual member countries.

The portal also presents an infographic on the subject of gender pay gap as well as an article (German only) on the dialogue process of the W20 group and its demands on the G20, written by Gesine Agena, member of the federal board and spokeswoman for women’s rights of the German Green Party.

This statement was translated from the original German.

Media Contact Heinrich Böll Foundation:
Michael Alvarez Kalverkamp
Press Officer
Tel.: +49-(0)30-285 34-202
Email: alvarez@Böll.de