In Germany, mothers struggle to return to the workforce
The Globe has been running some impressive coverage in its World section lately, branching out into cultural issues as well as hard news from abroad. One case in point is Doug Saunders’ piece about working women in Germany.
It turns out – and this is news to me – that Germany has lagged way behind the rest of Western Europe in integrating mothers into the workforce. Working with children is both financially difficult, with childcare expensive and rare, and socially unacceptable for married women.
The ideology itself was Ms. Hoffritz’s biggest barrier. When she talked about her frustrations, her friends and relatives openly denounced her as a rabenmutter – literally “raven mother,” a woman who abandons her children, like the mythic ravens throwing their chicks from the nest. It is a term routinely applied to working mothers in Germany.
Rather than focusing exclusively on policy, Saunders takes a broader view, tracing attitudes about working mothers back to the Cold War. It’s an interesting angle, though I’d like to hear more about women in what was East Germany, since at least pre-unification they would have been expected to work. Have attitudes changed on that side of the wall, or is this article mostly relevant in the West? I’m also interested in differences in workplace participation and childcare across classes – do they follow the same patterns as, say, Canada 30 years ago?
In any case, the article is thoughtful, and well worth reading.