Discrimination is still affecting the German workplace 

Although over half of the German labour force claims to have never felt discriminated against (Source: Intelligence Group), Germans still feeling discriminated against based on gender, age, weight, and more. But which gender and age group are mainly affected?

Victoria Egba on November 27, 2023 Average reading time: 4 min
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Discrimination is still affecting the German workplace 

Germans don’t like to speak-out when being discriminated

Under Germany’s General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), discrimination based on factors such as age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion, worldview, race, and anti-semitism is supposedly prohibited. However, the reality for Germans in the workforce is slightly different. Although 51% of Germans agree they have never felt discriminated against, 2 out of 10 Germans (19%) prefer not to say if they experienced discrimination. Quite a disturbing observation compared to other countries in Europe. For instance, in Netherlands 64% don’t feel discriminated at all and only 10% prefer not to say. Moreover, the general Europe average has 58% not feeling discriminated and 12% not saying.

Based on the research by Intelligence Group, where data is collected every quarter from at least 2.500 Germans in the German workforce, there’s proof of discrimination in the German workforce. 8% of Germans feel discriminated based on Gender, 7% experience age-based discrimination, 7% on marital status, 5% on vaccination status, and 4% on mental health, illness or disability.

Discrimination in Germany: Gender based Age-based Marital status Vaccination status Mental health
Percentage: 8% 7% 7% 5% 4%

Additionally, according to Germans’ Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, the number of people filing discrimination complaints increased by 14% in Germany in 2022 compared to 2021, to a total of 8,827. Discrimination on the workplace is present and increasing in Germany.

Sexism is the most common workplace discrimination 

Sexism appears to be the most common form of discrimination in Germany, and while it affects both genders, women experience it two and a half times more than men. Whereas 4% of men face sexism in the workplace, 11% of women have faced it while working or looking for work.

Despite Germany’s policies to protect women from workplace sexism, it appears to be a persistent problem.

Germany’s Gleichstellungspolitik (Gender Equality Policy) is built on several pillars, and inequalities are addressed through a variety of measures, such as ensuring equal pay for equal work and work of equal value, as well as promoting pay transparency, or promoting women’s equal access to leadership positions, and that emancipation and equality is needed on the German labour market. Moreover Destatis reports, shows women in Germany earned 18% less per hour than men in 2022, indicating that sexism exists.

Gen Z & Baby Boomers face age discrimination

Age discrimination is another less visible but pervasive discrimination affecting Germans. This type of discrimination affects both the younger and older segments of the workforce, indicating a significant issue. According to the data, 7% of Germans have experienced age discrimination in their professional lives. This issue affects two demographics in particular: those under 30 and those over 50, with 9% and 11%, respectively, reporting personal experiences with age-related discrimination.

Individuals under 30 should ideally focus on professional development and opportunities because they are expected to be in the early stages of their careers. However, the fact that 9% of them have experienced ageism shows the discrimination is still prevalent. Often this is ‘lack of experience’ that applicants and employees don’t get promoted, don’t get a job or feel competition with people that are older and have more experience.

Similarly, older workers (those over the age of 50) are supposed to be valued for their experience and expertise, but feel discriminated based on age, often also on costs. Experience is more expensive. Also there are prejudices about flexibility, learning agility, and the risk of illness.

Ageism is the most severe form of workplace discrimination that the older generation faces.

11% of this demographic report experiencing ageism in the workplace highlights the systemic issues embedded in the job market that undervalue individuals as they get older. This is extra worrying because of increasing amount of elderly in the German workforce. It also makes the most experience generation immobile on the labour market with a high risk that their valuable experience gets lost.

Marital status discrimination still exists!

Marital status discrimination refers to treating an individual unfavourably in their employment because they are married, single, divorced, or widowed. 6% of Germans have experienced marital status discrimination. What’s notable is that this type of bias affects both men and women in nearly equal proportions, highlighting the problem’s universality. However, the data reveals an interesting trend: while 5% of people under the age of 30 report experiencing marital status discrimination, it disproportionately affects those between the ages of 30 and 50 (7%).

For those between the ages of 30 and 50, marital status discrimination is the most severe form of discrimination they face.  It is possible that the possibility of marriage (and thus quitting a firm) or having children, which is costly for companies.

A person who got married might not be considered for a promotion on the assumption that they will resign shortly or become less focused on their work.

Furthermore, marital status discrimination might affect the social dynamics of the workplace. Because of their relationship status, they may encounter harassment, exclusion, or improper comments from colleagues or managers. Such unpleasantness jeopardises employee well-being and undermines morale and togetherness.

Discrimination based on migration background is not a hot topic

According to Destatis, at the close of 2022, the registration data in Germany’s Central Register of Foreigners (AZR) unveiled that approximately 351,000 individuals from non-European Union (EU) countries holding temporary residence titles for employment were residing in the country. In the context of this diverse demographic, the recorded discrimination experiences based on migration backgrounds become noteworthy. Surprisingly, only 3% of the individuals in the German labour force admitted to having experienced discrimination of this nature. Every precent point is one to many, and with the increasing amount of immigrants in Germany a number to look after.

In 2021, Forbes reported a study by YouGov showing over 40% of people with a migration background in Germany have faced instances of discrimination in their workplaces or in the job market.

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