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Women and employment in East Germany: the legacy of GDR equality

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Twenty years have passed since German unification. Significant cultural differences persist between former East and West Germany, including eastern and western women's significantly differing orientations towards employment. This study offers a historical perspective on the continuing gender disparities among German women. Drawing on the narratives of eastern women who were interviewed between 1999 and 2002, the study focuses on their perspectives on gender and employment, and their employment experiences in the decade after unification. The women who were interviewed for this study were members of the Party of Democratic Socialism, a political party that was formed in 1989 and 1990 out of the ruins of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of the German Demographic Republic. The study suggests that their views regarding East German social policy and their commitment to waged employment are similar to views widely shared by women in eastern Germany1. It is concluded that, in this particular regard, unified Germany today illustrates the continuing socio-cultural influence of a discredited Marxist-Leninist state and its policies in shaping cultural and gender relations.
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Keywords: German Democratic Republic; employment; gender; social policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Law and Social Policy, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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