According to a study, women still take care of the household and children significantly more than men. To change that, experts are now proposing reforms to spouse splitting and parental benefits. “Spousal splitting stands in the way of second earners participating in the labor force,” says macroeconomist Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln of Goethe University Frankfurt. The topic is discussed again and again before elections. Ultimately, however, there is a lack of political will to shake up the concept.
“There are studies that show that in Germany, ten years after the birth of the first child, the income of mothers was still 60 percent below the income in the year before the birth,” she says. This is mainly due to the fact that women do less paid work after giving birth. In countries like Denmark or Sweden, on the other hand, the value is only 20 percent, in the USA or Great Britain it is 40 percent. “In a comparison of other countries, Germany stands out above all with its tax system.” Many countries have a system of joint taxation, but not as extreme as in Germany.
According to a recent study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), an average 35-year-old woman does up to nine hours of so-called care work per day – men in this age group only a third of that. While this gap closes somewhat over the course of life, the wage gap, the so-called gender pay gap, remains constantly high. The researchers cite the unequal distribution of work at home, higher part-time quotas and longer parental leave for women as reasons.
A prerequisite for changing this is the further expansion of childcare, said co-author and head of the Gender Economics research group at DIW, Katharina Wrohlich. A lot has happened in the past, but the shortage remains. The subsidization of mini-jobs in combination with the spouse splitting promotes the unequal division. And parental allowance must also be reformed: “We know from research that when fathers take parental leave, the care work and especially childcare is divided more evenly.”
In the study, the authors therefore advocate a gradual increase in partner months from the current two to seven months. In other words, if couples want to receive parental allowance for fourteen months instead of twelve months, it should no longer be sufficient if one partner takes two months parental leave – the parents should split the time evenly. In its coalition agreement, the federal government has also planned an increase from the current two to three months. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs did not comment on the current status of the project.