Which country has the best gender equality

Women in Europe

Silke Bothfeld

To person

Dr. phil., born 1968; Professor for International Economic and Social Policy and Industrial Relations, University of Bremen, Neustadtswall 30, 28199 Bremen. [email protected]

Gesine Fuchs

To person

Dr. phil., born 1967; Political scientist; responsible for the research project "Genesis and Control of Professional Equality Policy in Switzerland", Institute for Political Science, University of Zurich, Affolternstrasse 56, CH 8050 Zurich. [email protected]

Equality is a multi-layered goal which, in addition to equal rights and obligations, also includes equal opportunities for money, power, time and recognition. In a European comparison, Germany occupies a position in the middle.


The political debate on gender equality policy currently revolves solely around the question of whether there should be a binding stipulation of the proportion of women on the boards of large companies. It is emphasized how investing or promoting innovation is an equal participation of women and men in working life. The expert opinion on the First Equal Opportunities Report, which the Expert Commission presented to the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth in January of this year and which paints a comprehensive picture of the socio-economic situation of women in Germany, is hardly publicly debated and is even in the responsible Federal Ministry to see little interest. Feminist observers have therefore rightly criticized for some time that gender equality policy is increasingly being reduced to equal career opportunities or the compatibility of work and family, while structural discrimination and its causes are neglected. [1] In its statement on the Equal Opportunities Report, the Federal Government does not comment on the required abolition of spouse splitting or on marginal employment. [2]

Indeed, gender equality is a complex idea that encompasses several normative principles that can be in conflict with one another. Following Nancy Fraser, we understand equality here to mean the equal distribution of income, free time, recognition and power. An active and consistent gender equality policy is necessary for the implementation of these principles. [3] This policy must give women and men the opportunity to do both gainful employment and care work for other people, and it must prevent poverty and marginalization, i.e. enable both sexes to have political influence and social participation. Equality as a leading norm of modernity is a sociopolitical goal even without economic advantages.

For this article, we highlight a few essential dimensions of equality in Germany in a European comparison, reflect on previous policies and ask about possible courses of action. This includes the values ​​and attitudes in the population, participation in politics as a basic requirement for political influence, the areas of labor market and social security as well as law and protection against discrimination. It turns out that Germany still occupies a position in the middle in a European comparison. As a result, we outline gender equality as part of a modern concept of democracy and show that a necessary step for more consistency in politics would be an open debate between conflicting interests and values.