‘How much do you earn?’ Germany takes on gender pay gap

Germany is hoping a new law on wage transparency will assist in closing the country’s gender pay gap. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2018
0

‘How much do you earn?’ Germany takes on gender pay gap

Berlin: It’s one of the last great taboos: asking a colleague how much they earn. But Germany is hoping workers will do just that under a new law that aims to close the country’s yawning gender pay gap.
The legislation, which came into effect in Europe’s top economy on January 6, gives an employee the right to know how their salary compares with that of colleagues of the opposite sex doing similar work.
“Other people’s salaries are still a taboo subject and a black box in Germany,” said acting Women’s affairs minister Katarina Barley whose Social Democratic Party championed the law.
The hope is that more transparency will reveal whether women are paid less than male peers — and bolster their demands for a rise or pave the way for possible legal action.
The new regulations however only apply to companies with more than 200 employees — leaving women in small firms in the dark about their colleagues’ pay slips.
Businesses with over 500 staff members will additionally be required to publish regular updates on salary structures to show they are complying with equal pay rules.
Supporters say the legislation is a good starting point, and hope women across the country will seize the opportunity to shed light on wage inequality.
“It’s like sending up a rocket flare to see what exactly is going on in our companies,” said Uta Zech, president of the German branch of the Business and Professional Women (BPW) campaign group.
But the legislation has already faced a torrent of criticism, with detractors saying it is too complicated, lacks teeth and will foster workplace animosity.
The law comes at a time when equality between the sexes is dominating public debate.
Zech said the discussion is particularly welcome in Germany, which has one of the European Union’s biggest gender wage gaps.
Women here earned around 21 percent less than men in 2016, according to official data, worse than the EU average of around 16 percent.
In part, this is because women in Germany tend more often to work in low-paid jobs or part time.
For women with the same qualifications doing the same work as men, the pay gap stands at around six percent.
“We are a rich country. Why can’t we achieve salary equality?” asked Zech.
But Germany’s pay slip transparency doesn’t mean human resources will reveal exactly how much the person in the next cubicle makes.
Instead, an employee can only find out what the median salary is of at least six colleagues in comparable jobs.
Here, critics say the devil is in the detail. If, for example, three men each earn 1,500 euros ($1,800), 1,500 euros and 3,000 euros a month, their average salary would be 2,000 euros.
But the median pay — or the number in the middle of the line-up — is just 1,500 euros.
“This figure is meaningless,” said Gregor Thuesing, a labor law professor.
Opponents say it is also too easy for bosses to come up with excuses to justify wage differences.
“An employer can wriggle out of it by saying ‘But Mr.Maier bears more responsibilities’ or ‘Mr Schmidt has more client contacts’,” Spiegel Online journalist Verena Toepper wrote.
“The law is a paper tiger. It won’t change anything.”
She cited the high-profile example of Birte Meier, a reporter for public broadcaster ZDF who took her boss to court after learning that a male colleague’s net income was bigger than her gross salary.
The judge last year threw out her discrimination claim, ruling that the colleague had simply “negotiated better.” “It’s called capitalism,” he said.
Some critics warn that the new law will stoke resentment, pointing to studies that show workers reporting lower job satisfaction once they find out they earn less than their peers.
“The right to demand salary information will foster workplace envy and discontent,” conservative lawmaker Christian von Stetten told Die Welt daily when the law was passed last July.
Other European countries have recently taken similar steps to lift the lid on salary secrecy — with a bit more bite.
Last year, Britain ordered firms of over 250 employees to publish details of their gender pay gap by April — with sanctions an option if companies refuse to comply.
And Iceland this year enacted a law that requires firms with more than 25 staff to prove they are paying men and women the same for doing the same work — the first country in the world to do so.


Mideast plays key role in Chinese export of armed drones, report says

Updated 17 December 2018
0

Mideast plays key role in Chinese export of armed drones, report says

  • China has exploited America’s selective drone export policy to become an increasingly influential player in meeting demand
  • The report is entitled “Armed Drones in the Middle East: Proliferation and Norms in the Region”

BEIRUT: The use of armed drones in the Middle East, driven largely by sales from China, has grown significantly in the past few years with an increasing number of countries and other parties using them in regional conflicts to lethal effects, a new report said Monday.
The report by the Royal United Services Institute, or RUSI, found that more and more Mideast countries have acquired armed drones, either by importing them, such as Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or by building them domestically like Israel, Iran and Turkey.
China has won sales in the Middle East and elsewhere by offering drones — otherwise known as UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles — at lower prices and without the political conditions attached by the United States.
The report , entitled “Armed Drones in the Middle East: Proliferation and Norms in the Region,” said that by capitalizing on the gap in the market over the past few years, Beijing has supplied armed drones to several countries that are not authorized to purchase them from the US, and at a dramatically cheaper price.
“China, a no-questions-asked exporter of drones, has played and is likely to continue playing a key role as a supplier of armed UAVs to the Middle East,” it said.
The report explored where and how each of the states have used their armed drones and whether they have changed the way these countries approach air power. It found that Iran, the UAE and Turkey all changed the way they employ airpower after they acquired armed drones.
For Turkey and the UAE, armed drones enabled them to conduct strikes in situations where they would not have risked using conventional aircraft, it said. Iran developed armed drones from the outset specifically to enable to project power beyond the reach of its air force, which is hamstrung by obsolete aircraft and sanctions, the report added.
The report said it remains to be seen whether and how the loosening of restrictions on the exportation of armed drones by the Trump administration will alter dynamics in the region.
“Nonetheless, proliferation in armed UAVs in the Middle East is unlikely to stop and could, in fact, even accelerate,” the report said.