Path to equality between people

Fratzscher's distribution issues / equality: Freedom and equality


Read on one side

The gender issue must be about equality, i.e. equal opportunities, and not equality, i.e. the same results - so the criticism of my last two columns at ZEIT ONLINE (here and here). So women shouldn't be forced to do something they didn't want and men shouldn't be discriminated against. And the laws in Germany now ensure that all people in our country have the same freedom of choice.

But is that true? Is there equality in our society? And doesn't equality also have to be a central goal of politics?

In 2009, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs commissioned several research institutes (including DIW Berlin) to evaluate family policy performance with reference to five specific goals, including the well-being of the child, but also the compatibility of work and family. Shortly before the report was submitted in 2013, the new Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Kristina Schröder, changed the target without further ado, possibly because she was concerned about a critical vote in the report: only family policy achievements should be assessed in terms of whether they are the "freedom of choice" of families and parents improved.

Who is against freedom? Ultimately, our liberal democracy is about what the state should and should not do in order to enable everyone to lead a self-determined life. However, freedom is much more than equality of people before the law. The British philosopher Isaiah Berlin made a distinction between positive freedom and negative freedom. "To be free" means not only equality before the law, but also the ability to take advantage of opportunities and not have any insurmountable hurdles in the way. Of course, this is an ideal concept of freedom that in reality can never be achieved for anyone. But the task of the state in a liberal democracy is to enable all people, regardless of their gender, religion, sexual orientation, skin color, age and origin, to enjoy such freedom in a similar way.

So when it is said again and again that it can only be about equality in the gender issue, then this is often just a hypocritical argument to deny inadequate equal opportunities. After all, how exactly do you want to measure equality, if not through specific measures of equality? An example: eight percent of the board members of the 40 DAX companies are women, 92 percent are men. Some claim that this is not due to discrimination against women, but to their "free choice". Really? Why then do the Nordic countries or Great Britain have twice or three times as high a proportion of women in management positions? Another example: In hardly any other European country is the gender pay gap, i.e. the wage gap between women and men, as high as in Germany. Are women paid less for the same job because they want to or bargain badly, or is it because there is also discrimination when it comes to the question of pay?

Equality and equality are mutually dependent

In other words, indicators of equality are often the best available measures of equality - especially when they are used in international comparisons. Equality does not mean equality in every case, for example that equality in a professional career only exists if half of the managers in all companies are women.

Equality and equality are not just two sides of the same coin. An improvement in equality can in some cases lead to an improvement in equality, i.e. equal opportunities, for women. So we know that role models and role models are extremely important. In terms of Isaiah Berlin's concept of freedom, this means that it is essential for girls and young women to be shown that women in our society, just like men, can take on any role.