The shortage of skilled workers in Germany is great. It is true that more mothers are now employed than a few years ago. But many work part-time. “That’s one of the points about the lack of skilled workers that you have to start with,” says Stefan Sauer from the Ifo Institute. According to the labor market expert Enzo Weber from the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB), many women with children are stuck in the part-time trap.

According to data published by the Federal Statistical Office on Wednesday, 69 percent of mothers of underage children were employed last year. This is an increase of 9 percentage points compared to 2005. Paternal employment increased from 88 percent to 92 percent in the same period. For the majority of couples, both parents worked (66 percent). At 26 percent, the father alone was responsible for subsistence, at around 3 percent the mother.

Brachliegende Potentiale

However, many mothers continue to work part-time, while fathers have full-time jobs. Last year, this applied to 65 percent of couples. In only 2 percent of working parents, the mother worked full-time and the father part-time. In the other cases, either both had full-time jobs (27 percent) or both worked part-time (5 percent).

The economy is desperately looking for staff. According to the Ifo Institute, 43.1 percent of the approximately 9,000 companies surveyed nationwide suffered from shortages of qualified workers in July. “Despite the weakening economy, many companies are still desperately looking for suitable employees,” said Ifo expert Sauer.

The IAB sees a higher labor force participation among women as a factor in cushioning the labor shortage, which is likely to worsen as a result of demographic change. According to an IAB study, “in order to achieve higher employment rates for women, the formally existing equality in the labor market must be implemented better than before.”

Childcare needs to be expanded

The practice has been different so far: “Many mothers who have reduced their working hours are no longer able to progress professionally, that is the real potential that lies fallow,” says Weber. In his view, family commitments – looking after children or caring for relatives – are the main reason for “involuntary part-time work”, especially by women. A better state infrastructure for childcare and care could help. Sauer also believes that childcare needs to be expanded.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, last year 33.5 percent of women working part-time cited caring for children or other relatives and other family obligations as reasons, but only 8.0 percent of men.

According to Weber, employers are also asked. As far as possible, they should allow more flexible working hours and mobile working. “With a full-time job with a rigid shift plan with compulsory attendance, care can hardly be organized,” says the labor market expert.

In addition, according to experts, the current spouse splitting offers no incentives for women with underage children to work more or at all. Andreas Peichl, head of the Ifo Center for Macroeconomics and Surveys, recently demanded that this change urgently on the information channel BR24. In his observation, the traditional family image – the man works, the woman stays at home and takes care of two to three children – is outdated: “There are not so many couples in Germany anymore,” said Peichl.

With spouse splitting, the joint income of a couple is halved, the income tax due is calculated and the tax liability is then doubled. This is particularly useful for couples where one earns a lot and the other a little.