Coping with the pandemic demands a lot from women in particular. According to the sociologist, paid and unpaid work must be distributed more fairly.
taz: Ms. Allmendinger, shortly after the first wave of the pandemic, you prophesied that Corona would cause women to experience “terrible retraditionalisation”. Do you still see it that way almost eight months later?
Jutta Allmendinger: Even stronger than then.
Studies on the first lockdown are now available in many disciplines. An article has just appeared on the so-called “mental load”, which shows from a psychological point of view that the stress factors in women – and only in women – increase to the extent that school closings and double burdens occur. Meanwhile, there is little change in men beyond the lockdown phase. In addition, women have reduced their working hours much more and have found it much more difficult to find their way back into the labor market after the initial lockdown.
Born in 1956, is a sociologist and president of the Berlin Science Center for Social Research. Her book “It only works together! How we can finally achieve gender equality ”has been published by Ullstein Verlag.
You have now published a book in which you describe what should have been different. What would that be?
In my book I draw from my personal point of view and over the decades what is actually happening in this country. My grandfather, my father, the father of my son: full-time work was and is the norm with them. Women have adapted their life courses more and more to those of men and still do that today. They take on more and more paid work. Men, on the other hand, have not changed their life histories.
How should the résumés be changed specifically?
I am an advocate of employment of an average 32-hour week, i.e. below the current full-time. But the central point for me is to divide the unpaid work more evenly between men and women. Because the inequality that we have had here for a long time is the reason that there are enormous differences in monthly income. This in turn results in extremely low pensions for women, which they often have to live with for 20 or 30 years.
When it comes to employment, shouldn’t women adapt to men, but men to women?
It is a mistake to let women simply accept men’s careers. We live in a society that needs a lot more commitment to others. Now the time has come when men, when they become fathers, no longer increase their workload – and women have to go part-time. Paid and unpaid work must finally be distributed more fairly.
There are studies that show that at least the extra work caused by Corona in heterosexual couple relationships was almost equally distributed between men and women.
These studies are about proportional gains. These can of course be higher from a low level than from a very high level. I use the term limit load: women simply can no longer shoulder their already high burden.
Many are currently working from home. You write that this makes it easier to combine work and family – but at the same time it is a trap for women. In what way?
The home office does not provide any impulses for change. And it will not contribute to a permanent reorganization of unpaid work. Those who are currently in better positions in the labor market can afford to work from home because they were present at the workplace beforehand and thus visible and thus got into good positions. But the others, especially women, are currently lacking the important visibility needed to get into management positions due to the home office.
How is it during parental leave?
Men should go up from the previous 2 parenting months to 4 and women from 12 to 8 months. Men would then have sole organizational and mental responsibility for the children for a certain period of time. That would have longer-term effects on the assumption of responsibility.
Then women would adjust to men again, shorten their parental leave and be available for longer on the labor market.
I am not making any suggestion as to how long parental leave should be. I’m just saying that it should be shared equally between mothers and fathers. As long as only women take the long break, little will change in the fact that women are less represented in management positions. Employers will always prefer those who are more available to the labor market.
The motto of your book is: We can only do it together. Who is we”?
On the one hand, couples themselves. I can only imagine a more equal distribution – I am actually mainly talking about heterosexual couples in this book – if the couples who say before the birth of children that they want to have a partnership also together work to achieve this goal. I can’t imagine a fight between mothers and fathers or something like that.
And on the other?
On the other hand, politicians must open up options and massively cut back the state incentives to keep women’s work low: abolish spouse splitting, increase quota and parental leave. Then women and men can still say they want to live a different model, that’s fine. But I fight for options.
Don’t you assume that a common goal of politics is to achieve gender equality? Many want to prevent exactly that, the splitting of spouses, for example, is not an issue at all.
That is exactly what we have to work on. I am not only against spousal splitting, I want to work out a concrete alternative and arrive at a family split that is fairer. Pressure is needed now.
What would such a family splitting look like?
The tax relief is not only applied if one of the two people earns little and the other earns a lot. But the number of people in the household must be taken into account. Then the new family splitting must be developed from the child benefit, the exemption amounts and the spouse splitting.
Do you see an opportunity in the next legislature to abolish splitting?
Yes. I see a maximum understanding among the women of the CDU that the splitting of spouses is very obstructive for intra-family negotiation processes, anyway with the SPD and the Greens.
The problem is likely to be the Union men.
The men did not consider the quota for women in management positions necessary either, and now it exists anyway. Last year, I actually appeared activist for the first time in my life. I’ve learned that you have to bring women from different sectors and age groups together to really create something.
The quota for women in management positions is: One woman on the executive board if it consists of at least three people. Who is that useful?
For me, the goal is that women can freely choose how they organize their gainful and unpaid work. The unequal distribution of unpaid work is a major driver of different living wages and pensions.
Indeed, this benefits women who have come a long way. Most important to me, however, is that successful women have to become a matter of course. We need a lot more role models so that young women can see that women also have leadership responsibilities in business or in the public sector.
The fact that women can be role models does not mean that they are fighting for socially fairer women’s politics.
That’s right, that’s why I didn’t say that. Women aren’t just hiring women, and I don’t want to tell women to do that either. But to see that it works is extremely important in a society like Germany’s.
In the current situation, wouldn’t it be more important to fight for better pay and fairer working conditions in nursing than for women in management positions?
I don’t want to weigh that against each other. That was a pragmatic first approach that we took – simply because it was part of the coalition agreement. It must now be possible to incorporate the things you have mentioned in the next coalition agreements. This of course includes better pay for systemically relevant jobs, which are mostly done by women.
You close your book with the words “We will win”. When is that the case?
For me, the goal is that women can freely choose how they organize their gainful and unpaid work. The unequal distribution of unpaid work is a major driver of different wages and pensions. In order to change that, false incentives have to be eliminated: the free co-insurance of marginal part-time employees, the splitting of spouses, the standardization of what a good mother is. Then this goal would be achieved.