Mothers in Germany would like to work more than is actually possible in many cases. This is shown by a study by the Institute of German Economics (IW), which concerns employers, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung received in advance. The institute evaluated data from the Socio-Economic Panel, a regular representative survey of thousands of households in Germany. A good quarter of mothers surveyed in the recent survey were unemployed – apparently often involuntarily. Because only about 12 percent of mothers said they actually didn’t want a gainful job for themselves. When employed, mothers often work part-time against their will: a good 21 percent work less than 20 hours per week in their job, while only 12 percent of mothers want such a few hours .
At first glance, the desire and the reality turn out to be particularly drastic for mothers of children under the age of three. Almost 69 percent of them are not in paid employment, but only 27 percent do so according to their mother’s wishes. IW researcher Wido Geis-Thöne stresses, however, that the gap here should be interpreted with caution: for example, many unemployed mothers in this group are only on parental leave and are not unemployed. “The results tend to indicate that it is difficult, especially for mothers of young children, to implement their work wishes,” he says.
The fact that employment opportunities so often fall short of what is desired is not necessarily solely due to a lack of childcare options; In the survey, women ultimately stated their career aspirations in the context of the full-time daycare and school offerings they find. And yet they seemingly have a hard time implementing it. “Mothers with children are often more restricted in their job search because they cannot accept long journeys between home and work and therefore find it more difficult to find a job that suits them”, explains Geis-Thöne. “Or they want to increase their hours in principle, but can only work more at a time that is not convenient for the employer.” But the reservations of some companies towards women with children may also play a role. Other studies show that employers invite women for an interview less often than men after parental leave.
The traditional mother model has had its day
Overall, the IW study shows a remarkable change in the self-image of mothers in Germany: the traditional model of the mother staying at home with her children is becoming less and less popular. Women with children now want to work more often and for longer than they did in the late 1990s. The proportion of mothers who did not want to work was twice as high in 1998 as in 2018. ” In the past 20 years, attitudes have changed much faster than many in politics and business could imagine, ”says Geistones.
No matter how clear the trend is over time, the differences between population groups are still significant. Mothers in eastern Germany perceive work to be more natural than mothers in the West – a sequel to GDR policy, which supported the working mother model. Attitudes also differ significantly depending on the qualifications of women. Mothers without professional qualifications want to go to work much less often than academics. At 25 percent, the proportion of those who do not want to work is almost three times higher in this group than among mothers with a university degree. Among academics with children, only eight percent can imagine quitting a job altogether. They are also less likely to think that it is a shame for the child that the mother goes to work.
One of the reasons for the difference could be that a job for highly skilled women is not only associated with more money, but also with personal growth. “A doctor takes pleasure in his work, in his environment, you define yourself a lot more through your work. A cleaning lady, on the other hand, can even be happy when she doesn’t have to work, ”explains Geis-Thöne. “For her, it may be a matter of status if she can afford to stay home with the child.”