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Incoherent Strategies – Fragmented Outcomes: Raising Women’s Employment Rate in Germany

Author: SIGRID BETZELT and SILKE BOTHFELD
Published in GPS, Vol. 7 No. 1

Policies focusing on the transition between housework or care and paid employment
are inextricably connected with equal employment policies. Since
the creation of the European Employment Strategy (EES) political attention
has moved from equal opportunity policies at the EU level to ‘social investment’
policies which underline the need to develop or maintain human
capital rather than enhancing equality and justice. In this context, employment
policies are meant to focus on ‘activation’, i.e. an increase in labour
market participation. But to what extent are the two objectives of gender
equality and increasing labour market participation of women reconcilable
in practice?
This article discusses the implications of the EES for a conservative gender
and employment regime and uses Germany as a case study. The hypothesis
of this article is that the German labour market reforms introduced since
Lisbon rather contribute to a further ‘fragmentation’ of the German gender
regime than to a gradual transition towards a new clear-cut, more equality
oriented gender regime. The in-depth analysis of German labour market
policies will demonstrate in what terms the most recent employment policy
reforms include contradictory and ambiguous incentives regarding the access
and quality of women’s employment and reproduce and enhance inferior
patterns of labour market participation. Also, it will be argued that the
EU policy regime is itself inconsistent and incoherent, especially since the
emergence of the activation paradigm.

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