Legislative and policy framework

German constitutional law stresses the equality of men and women and expresses a federal commitment to an active and effective equality policy. Article 3(2) of the Foundational Law (Grundgesetz) of 1949 stresses that ‘(1) all humans are equal before the law; and (2) men and women are equal in rights. The state promotes the actual enforcement of the equality between men and women and works towards the elimination of existing disadvantages; (3) no one may be privileged or disadvantaged based on sex, origin, ethnicity, language, heritage, belief, religious or political belief. No one may be disadvantaged based on their disability.’[1] The Basic Law was extended to the reunified state in 1990. The mandate of gender equality under the constitution was reinforced by the following addition in 1994: ‘The state promotes the effective implementation of equal rights for women and men and works to eliminate existing disadvantages’.

In addition to the foundational Grundgesetz, the principle of gender equality is enshrined in other laws, several more federal laws concerning aspects of gender equality across economic sectors have recently been adopted. Recent laws on gender equality in the labour market and public administration include a ‘Federal Law on Pay Transparency’ (Entgelttransparenzgesetz), a law to increase the share of women in leadership positions (Zweites Führungspositionen-Gesetz - FüPoG II), and a law to promote ‘Women in STEM professions’.

In a Cabinet Resolution of 23 June 1999, the federal government recognised the importance of gender equality as a guiding principle for its activities and adopted gender mainstreaming as a joint aim in the operation of all federal ministries. This aim was legally consolidated through the 2000 Joint Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries (Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien), which states that, ‘Equality between men and women is a consistent guiding principle and should be promoted by all political, legislative and administrative actions of the federal ministries in their respective areas (gender mainstreaming),’ and requires all Federal Ministries to “promote equality between women and men as a pervasive guiding principle in all their normative actions”.[2] Therefore, gender equality should be ensured, secured, and promoted in all of the government’s political, administrative and agenda-setting measures (federal and regional).The country’s first (2011), second (2017) and third (2021) Gender Equality Reports (Gleichstellungsbericht) further underline gender mainstreaming as an important tool for gender equality – but also highlight ongoing challenges concerning leadership and cross-sectoral implementation of gender equality.

In the 2018 Coalition Treaty, the then federal government sought to respond to these challenges by creating a ‘cross-sectoral equality strategy’ for all policy areas and a gender equality action plan.’[3] However, no overarching national action plan was produced.

The Federal Equality Strategy (Gleichstellungsstrategie) sets out 9 goals via 27 measures:

  • goal 1: ensuring economic independence for everyone;
  • goal 2: establishing care professions as attractive career paths;
  • goal 3: setting standards for the digital world;
  • goal 4: making paid work and unpaid care work reconcilable;
  • goal 5: bringing more women into economic leadership positions;
  • goal 6: establishing equal participation in democracy;
  • goal 7: eliminating stereotypes in culture and science;
  • goal 8: strengthening gender equality in public administration; and
  • goal 9: making gender equality a task for the entire government.

This strategy has indicators that are monitored at least once per legislative period (4 years), but many indicators are monitored more frequently. This overarching strategy is accompanied by sector-specific action plans and initiatives.  


Governmental equality bodies

The main governmental equality body is the Division for Gender Equality within the Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Abteilung ‘Gleichstellung’, Bundesministerium für Familien, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend – BMFSFJ). Its principal functions are to draft gender equality policy for the government and to monitor progress in achieving gender equality, for example via the Equality Report (Gleichstellungsbericht[4]) and the Equality Atlas (Gleichstellungsatlas[5]). This Division conducts research on gender equality issues, in addition to publishing and disseminating information on gender equality for public information and training. It is also responsible for integrating gender equality considerations into Germany’s EU and international affairs.

The Division has 101 staff members. It is rarely consulted for day-to-day policymaking (consultation takes place in less than 25 % of cases). This is because, in Germany, all federal ministries and associated bodies are to undertake gender mainstreaming as a commitment. In theory, this whole-of-government approach drastically reduces the need for bilateral consultations.  

At the interministerial level, there is no formal consultation mechanism. However, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) is involved in legislative processes on an ad-hoc basis, ‘to examine whether significant effects in terms of equality policy are to be expected’ (Annex 6 for § 46, paragraph 1 of the Joint Rules of Procedure for the Federal Ministries - GGO) in draft legislative proposals. Additionally, the Ministry has informal contact points (e.g., civil servants in other ministries, independent experts) that may be consulted depending on the issue. More than 75% of ministries are included in this collaborative structure.

The Division for Gender Equality reports on its activities through its involvement in the Gender Equality Report of the federal government (Gleichstellungsbericht der Bundesregierung)[6] which is submitted to the parliament once per legislative period (every four years). It is produced in consultation with the government. Other parliamentary reports may be produced, but not necessarily with the same regularity, (e.g., ad-hoc reports on gender equality in a specific sector). Additionally, the Division for Gender Equality in the BMFSFJ may be consulted regarding other governmental reports and legal advice.

The 2018 Coalition Treaty also promised a federal foundation to support evidence-based policymaking. This was realised in 2021 with the creation of a Federal Foundation for Equality (Bundesstiftung Gleichstellung), which aims to increase knowledge, action, and innovation by ‘scientifically examining the just participation of women in society, politics, science and the economy’.[7]

Germany’s ESF operational programmes complement these national structures by highlighting gender mainstreaming as a transversal priority, running across various projects. The 2014-2020 programme had three horizontal objectives: (1) gender equality; (2) anti-discrimination; and (3) ecological sustainability. In 2015, the specialised Agency for Horizontal Objectives within the ESF (Agentur für Querschnittsaufgaben im ESF) was established to monitor, advise and support the stakeholders implementing the federal operational programme to integrate these horizontal objectives into their initiatives. The more recent ESF+ programme for 2021-2027 also makes “gender equality”, and the more specific “Promotion of a balanced labour market participation of women and men, equal working conditions and a better work-life balance, including through access to affordable childcare and childcare services for dependents” a core priority.[8]

Independent equality body

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes – ADS) is the independent equality body for Germany. Its gender-related functions include conducting research on gender equality issues, integrating gender equality considerations in EU and international affairs, publishing and disseminating gender equality-related information and conducting training, and, most importantly, providing legal support for victims of discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender.

The ADS has 35 staff who work on six different protection grounds. Therefore, approximately 0-25 % of their time is on projects specifically focused on gender equality.

Regarding consultation in the legislative process or programme implementation, the ADS is consulted more frequently than the Division for Gender Equality in the BMFSFJ. The ADS is consulted on some policies, laws or programmes developed in 25-50 % of cases concerning the federal administration, with consultation leading to adjustments in 25-50 % of cases. The government only on a case-by-case basis consults the ADS, as there is no obligation to involve the agency in drafting policies, laws or programmes. Its mandate on gender equality is limited to the scope of the Equality Directives and does not encompass other aspects, such as gender-based violence or hate crime.

Parliamentary bodies

In the Bundestag (the Lower House of Germany’s Federal Parliament), the Committee on Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Ausschuss für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) is one of the 23 standing committees that was established following the last election in January 2018. It focuses on family policies, children and youth, family and work, and the promotion of gender equality.[9]

In the Bundesrat (Upper House of Germany’s Federal Parliament), legislative proposals which have passed 3 readings in the Bundestag must be submitted to the Committee on Women and Youth (Ausschuss für Frauen und Jugend des Bundesrates).[10] The Committee, representing all 16 federal regions, deals with draft acts/laws (bills) in the areas of equality, children and youth, and civil service.

The Committee is responsible for proposals submitted by the federal government to the Bundesrat under the auspices of the BMFSFJ, and for submissions by state/regional governments (Länder), as drawn up by the respective state/regional (Länder) ministries. In addition to national regulatory proposals for legislation and regulations, the Committee deals with a large number of EU projects within the framework of community competence for these issues.

Regional structure

As an EU-Member State with a decentralised governance structure, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) implements the federal government’s overarching equality strategy with the support of the federal regions (Bundesländer). The 16 federal regions have their regional equality strategies, which are passed by the regional parliaments and implemented by the regional administrations in conjunction with regional civil society stakeholders.[11]

Representatives of the regions regularly meet at the Conference of Ministers and Senators for Gender Equality and Women's Affairs of the Länder (Konferenz der Gleichstellungs- und Frauenministerinnen und -minister, -senatorinnen und -senatoren der Länder – GFMK). The Conference’s main objective is to ensure commonalities in gender equality policy for women at the regional (Länderebene) and national levels. It adopts measures for equal opportunity policy/strategy for women and men in all areas of life and accompanies the legislative processes at the federal level.

The 16 State Equality laws (Landesgleichstellungsgesetze) and the relevant equality regulations in the higher education laws of the Länder, enacted in the 1990s, regulate the equal treatment of women and men in the public service.

Germany also has official and volunteer commissioners in the municipalities who are tasked with meeting the equality requirements of the Basic Law (Article 3, paragraph 2). They do this through, for example, proposals to address discriminatory structural barriers facing women inside and outside the administration.

Per the provisions of the equal rights laws and the equality laws of the federal states, equality commissioners, women's representatives or equal opportunities officers are appointed or elected either full-time, part-time, or as honorary representatives. They are usually responsible for promoting women's affairs and women’s participation in equal opportunities measures, and monitoring and initiating work-life balance proposals.

At the local level, the Federal Association of Municipal Women's Offices and Equality Bodies (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der kommunalen Frauenbüros und Gleichstellungsstellen) is composed of 1900 municipal women’s and equal opportunities commissioners, most of whom are linked to municipal administrations.[12] The Association’s main tasks are networking, lobbying, and creating an open alliance of women in political decision-making to expand women’s influence in national politics.

Consultation with civil society

Consultations with civil society stakeholders and experts during the legislative process are required under § 47, paragraph 3 of the Joint Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries (Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien – GGO)[13]. The Division for Gender Equality of the BMFSFJ provides institutional and project funding to some civil society organisations. The new Federal Foundation for Gender Equality (see above) was set up by the Act for Establishing the Federal Foundation for Equality (Gesetz zur Errichtung einer Bundesstiftung Gleichstellung)[14] to provide a regular platform for exchange with civil society actors in the field of gender equality policy.

Methods and tools

Note: the methods and tools listed under this section were the focus of EIGE's 2021 assessment. If certain methods and tools are not mentioned in this section, this does not necessarily mean that they are not used at all by Germany.

Gender impact assessment and gender budgeting

Germany uses several methods and tools to implement gender mainstreaming, including ex-ante impact assessments to analyse the gender impact of proposed legislation, gender budgeting and gender-sensitive language. The extent to which these actions are implemented, however, cannot be assessed with certainty since some practices fall under the discretion of the ministries and there is no comprehensive data available for the whole administration.

The legal obligation to undertake an ex-ante gender impact assessment is enshrined in the Joint Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries (Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien - GGO) § 2 GGO in combination with § 44, paragraph 1. Here, civil servants and policymakers are required to assess the ‘predicted, intentional and unintentional effects’ of new policies, ‘especially the long-term effects’ in the name of sustainability. This kind of ex-ante impact assessment includes the effects of planned policies on gender equality.

There is no explicit legal obligation to undertake gender budgeting, but gender mainstreaming is enshrined as a universal guiding principle in the Joint Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries (see above). In this regard, §2, paragraph 2 of the Joint Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries (Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien; GGO) states that: ‘The equal standing of men and women is a transversal guiding principle which should be promoted in all political, legal and administrative actions of the Federal Ministries in their respective competence areas.’[15] Based on interpretation of this commitment, some line ministries use gender budgeting in ministerial budgets[16].

Training and awareness-raising

Gender mainstreaming is also implemented through the use of gender-sensitive language. To achieve this, a set of guidelines on the use of gender-sensitive language in governmental reports was published and sent to all ministries.[17] Gender equality training is also available for employees in some ministries but not for the staff at the highest political level e.g. ministers and the training is not mandatory.

Gender Statistics

Regarding gender statistics, there is no legal obligation for the Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis) to collect data disaggregated by sex.[18] However, there are obligations on other public institutions to collect such data:

  • Federal Equality Act, 2015[19]
  • Micro-census Law, 2016[20]
  • Population Statistics Law, 2013 [21]
  • Census Preparation Act, 2021[22]

The way that ‘sex’ is recorded changed in 2018, due to an independent opinion from the Federal Antidiscrimination Agency (ADS), through an amendment to German civil status law. This gave intersex people in Germany the option to select ‘diverse’, rather than ‘male’ or ‘female’, as their sex on civil documents.[23]

The German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth publishes the ‘Gender Equality Atlas’ in cooperation with Destatis,[24] which continuously provides a comprehensive overview of the regional differences in equality between women and men in Germany using 41 indicators.[25] The online Gender Equality Atlas includes a thematic breakdown of the statistics it covers, data visualisations, and provides direct access to relevant datasets that can be viewed online and downloaded. It does not yet provide direct access to relevant publications and/or online analyses of gender statistics. In addition, on the national website for disseminating the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Federal Statistical Office Germany regularly publishes German data on the indicators of goal 5, ‘Gender Equality’.[26] Analysis of gender statistics on both websites is lacking, however, with no publications specifically focusing on gender available.

Monitoring progress

Indicators for monitoring progress on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU, under Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action

This section analyses the scores achieved by Germany for data collection in 2021 for the four officially agreed-on to indicators on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming, and to monitor progress on Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also analyses scores under an expanded measurement framework which includes the role of independent gender equality bodies in gender mainstreaming. Institutional mechanisms refer to national machineries that implement, monitor, evaluate, and mobilise support for policies that promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. All indicators and sub-indicators are available on the Gender Statistics Database here, including metadata about how the scores are calculated.

For Indicator H1 on the status of commitment to the promotion of gender equality and considering only the governmental commitment in line with the officially adopted indicator, Germany scored 6.0 points out of a possible 12, below the EU average of 7.2. It scored particularly low on sub-indicator H1e on accountability of the governmental gender equality body where it lost 3.5 points out of a maximum possible score of 5 because it does not have a national action plan on gender equality in place.

Under an expanded measurement framework which includes sub-indicator H1f on the mandate and functions of the independent gender equality body, Germany scored an additional 1.5 points, out of a possible 3. It lost 1.0 point because the mandate of the independent gender equality body is gender equality combined with other non-discrimination areas, rather than exclusively focused on gender equality. It also lost 0.5 points because the functions of the independent body do not include providing support for victims of discrimination on the ground of sex or gender. The overall score for the expanded H1 indicator was 7.5 out of a possible 15, below the EU average of 9.1.

Indicator H2 analyses the personnel resources of the national gender equality bodies. For sub-indicator H2a, regarding the governmental body, Germany scored all 2 points available, along with Greece, Spain, and Sweden, which was twice the EU average of 1.0, because there were 100 or more employees working on gender equality in the governmental body. For sub-indicator H2b, regarding the independent body, Germany’s score was 0.5 points, out of the possible 2, because there were 5-10 employees working on gender equality in the independent body. The EU average was slightly higher at 0.8.

Indicator H3 relates to gender mainstreaming. Here, Germany scored 5.8 out of a possible 12, which was above the EU average of 5.1. Germany lost 2.5 points, out of the maximum possible score of 4, on sub-indicator H3b on governmental gender mainstreaming structures and consultation processes, because, in part, the governmental body is never consulted or consulted only in a few cases by departments or ministries about the gender impact of policies, laws or programmes.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H3d on consultation of the independent equality body, Germany scored 5.8 points out of a possible 14, which was higher than the EU average which increased to 5.4. Under this sub-indicator Germany lost both available points because the independent gender equality body is only consulted by departments or ministries on the gender impact of specific new or existing policies in some cases, and those consultations, similarly, only lead to relevant adjustments in some cases.

For Indicator H4 on the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex, Germany scored 4.2 points, out of a possible 6, which was above the EU average of 3.4. It scored 2.7 points, out of a possible 4, for sub-indicator H4c on the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex; here, Germany lost 1.0 point because statistics are disseminated through the website of the governmental body rather than the National Statistics Institute, which may mean statistics do not reach policy makers outside of gender equality issues, and lost 0.3 points because the website does not provide direct access to publications and/or online analysis of gender statistics to facilitate dissemination of these outputs.