General News, The Enjoyment of Double Employment is a Fairy Tale, 17.10.2014

The Enjoyment of Double Employment is a Fairy Tale


The feminist view of history is remarkably simple: From the "oppressed" and "dependent" wife and mother in "patriarchy" progress, to the equal living conditions of women and men in private and public life. The biggest obstacle on this path is the traditional family, with the mother as the carer and the father as the breadwinner. This "traditional" division of labor in the family needs to give way to strict egalitarian gender roles for the partner on both sides. According to feminist views, this form of emancipation serves the happiness of the people, particularly of women (1).

The former Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Renate Schmidt claimed something along these lines recently: that full-time employed mothers have the "greatest life satisfaction" (2). Empirical findings of the socio-economic panel indicate, however, the opposite: full-time working mothers with full-time employed partners express themselves more dissatisfied with their lives than women in traditional families, who are working, or working only part-time. Simultaneously, fathers as "breadwinners" are more satisfied than in egalitarian family circumstances. On the other hand, in "reversed roles" with the partner as breadwinner, men are (with or without children) more dissatisfied. Therefore, full-time employment promotes the life satisfaction of men, which does not apply in the same way to women: even childless women in circumstances of an egalitarian couple are not as satisfied as women in the "male single-earner model". Certainly employment is important, not only as a mean of subsistence but also for self-development. However, unlike men, many women don’t see full-time work as their central purpose in life (3).

These differences between the lifestyles of men and women can be observed everywhere in Europe. They are evident through the fact that mainly women accept part-time job offers. So far, such offers are relatively rare in Portugal and in the Central and Eastern European countries, while women are particularly more often part-time employed in the German speaking countries, the UK and the Netherlands (4). However, the more widespread part-time employment is the more egalitarian family patterns are pulling back. Nowhere else in Europe are fewer children growing up with both parents working fully, than in the Netherlands (5). Families with full-time working mothers are particularly common; however, in Portugal and Slovenia, the egalitarian relationships are probably due to material constraints rather than a free choice of lifestyle. In fact, in Europe only a minority of people prefer full-time employment for mothers with (pre-school) children, thi political equality is less desirable to them than as an emergency model (6).

Economic circumstances for families are therefore the main lever for the gender equality policy to convey its supposed progress. Even today, Renate Schmidt claims the "single-earner family model in which the wife earns in a mini-job at most," is only "available to the top ten, twenty percent income"(7). Official figures show, however, that more than 35% of all couples with children under 18 years of age live on a single income - in most cases, the family breadwinners are average earners. Even more common are full-time/part-time combinations of parents (40%), while the favorite of Schmidt egalitarian double full-time model follows with less than 15% of parents (8). With the rising part-time employment of mothers, this share has actually decreased compared to the 1990s, so the real families miss the gender equality targets (9). To break the willfulness of families and to guide the course of history finally in the "right" direction, feminists now call for the state to set the "right" incentives to prevent women "crumbling" in the education of children and from falling into the "dependency" of a husband (10). Specifically this means that breadwinner families should pay higher taxes and social security contributions. This kind of progress is, however, expensive and detrimental to the happiness of the great majority, apart from the demographic consequences.


(1) As a current example of this worldview: Bascha Mika “Die Feigheit der Frauen Rollenfallen und Geiselmentalität. - Eine Streitschrift wider den Selbstbetrug”, Munich, 2011
(2) See: Renate Schmidt, “Auslaufmodell – Alleinverdienerfamilie”, pp. 20-21, DFV-Familie 5/2011, p. 20
(3) Berta van Schnoor/Susanne Seyda “Wie zufrieden sind Männer und Frauen mit ihrem Leben?”, pp.23-42, in Roman-Herzog-Institut (Hrsg.) “Wie viel Familie verträgt die moderne Gesellschaft”, Munich, 2011, pp. 34-36.
(4) Statistisches Bundesamt: Jugend und Familie in Europa, Wiesbaden 2009, p. 50 (from: 2.10)
(5) See: „Erwerbsmodelle von Familien in der OECD-Welt" (figure below)
(6) The most egalitarian role models are to be found in Europe, in Denmark and East Germany. But even there only a minority advocates full-time employment of mothers with preschool children. A complete waiver of maternal employment is most frequently supported in Central and Eastern Europe, which has relatively "traditional" roles. See: http://www.i-daf.org/177-0-Woche-23-2009.html It is therefore obvious that the full-time employment of mothers in countries like Poland often does not meet the preferences (see: "Economic models of families in the OECD world" (Figure below)
(7) Renate Schmidt ” Auslaufmodell - Alleinverdienerfamilie
(8) See: “Familien in Deutschland - nur etwa jede Zehnte folgt dem „Doppelvollzeitverdienermodell"” (figure below).
(9) See: http://www.i-daf.org/391-0-Wochen-21-22-2011.html
(10) "Crumble" and "mousing" are terms used by Basha Mika in relation to women who postpone their original career plans due to child care, such as recently at a panel discussion on Deutschlandradio on 26 October in Leipzig. Regarding the discussion of "perverse incentives" and the taxation of marriages and families http://www.i-daf.org/361-0-Wochen-3-4-2011.html