Income Disparities Threaten the Nation
Interview with Brigitte Young
[This interview originally published in: die tageszeitung, March 15, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de/pt.nf/spText.Name.neoliberalismus.idx.0. Brigitte Young is an economist, a professor of political economy at the Free University of Berlin and the only female expert on the Enquete commission gGlobalization of the World Economyh, gGender Budgeth and the World Market.]
taz: gGenderh and gbudgeth evoke utter boredom for many. How would you make this term attractive for young people?
Brigitte Young: This term is problematic. In the past, there was no adequate translation in German. Untranslated the subject hung in the academic milieu. Distribution of public goods is central. If the military budget is massively increased, the weapons industry profits. Only the side of gmilitary securityh is served. When state child care is extended, an investment is made in ghuman securityh. The public treasury no longer grows after the economic collapse of the nineties and the lower tax revenues. In the sixties and seventies, there was still something to distribute. That is over. Whoever doesnft bow to the neoliberal dictates of monetary stability criteria gets a gblue letterh from Brussels. To respect those criteria, it is said, the parts of the public budget affecting women and ghuman securityh will be cut: child care, education, health care and social benefits.
Taz: Are women the poor victims who must protect Father state?
Brigitte Young: No. What is central here is efficiency, not morality. Great status- and income disparities between women and men threaten the whole nation. With investment in child care, enormous human capital is released: young, well-educated women who want to work but have fallen in the mother trap.
Taz: How do you explain that every German government including Red-Green wastes human resources?
Brigitte Young: The German picture of the mother is involved. In surveys, 65 percent of men and 62 percent of women are convinced that children up to three would be better cared for at home. Many women believe they would be guncaring mothersh if they didnft accept this responsibility. This term doesnft exist in any other language but is a German syndrome. After the unification, many hoped that the high unemployment rate would fall since East German women would return to the kitchen. The opposite happened. Slowly but surely the employment rate is also growing among West German women.
Taz: Must Wm. Duisenberg be replaced by a feminist economist as head of the EU (European Union) central bank?
Brigitte Young: One person alone can change very little. Over-adapted women are often worse than men.
Whole structures must be changed. In the seventies, the Harvard industrial sociologist Ross Kanther discovered that not much changes as long as less than 40 percent are women in an organization.
Taz: Letfs assume that feminist economists were prominent everywhere. What would your gender budget look like for Germany?
Brigitte Young: Much more would be invested in education and research from children and comprehensive schools to the universities. This would raise the total level of the nation and allow the self-determined choice between family and occupation for men and women. However our public expenditures are sinking or stagnating which involve massive follow-up costs. Here is one example. The remaining secretaries at the universities are under terrific stress increasing the rate of sickness. A gender-budge would scrutinize the supposedly gender-neutral main current of budget expenditures with gender criteria. One main objective of the gender budget is to provoke structural chances in the budget orthodoxy and the manner and way decisions are made on economic and social priorities.
Taz: The New Zealander Marylin Waring first emphasized the absurdity that accidents and catastrophes increase the gross national product, not childrenfs education. Must the gender budget invent a new auditing?
Brigitte Young: This would mean rethinking the relationship between macro-economic policy and framing social conditions, a course of research known under the term gengendering of the macro-economyh, a terrible term. Unpaid, invisible work should be made invisible. Unpaid work first makes possible the efficient functioning of paid work.