Taking lessons from Germany

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Taking lessons from Germany

I recently had a chance to speak at an event hosted by Women’s JoongAng magazine in Busan about women whose careers have been interrupted by pregnancy and child care. It’s become a major social issue here. A similar problem has been addressed in Germany, but it is not as serious as in Korea.

With the most rapidly aging population in Europe, Germany has long been working to improve its pregnancy and child care policies. The law on parental leave dictates that parents can take 14 weeks off from work, six weeks before the birth of the baby and eight weeks after.

Three years of elternzeit - literally, “parents’ time” - is also allowed for either new mothers or fathers, with their old job guaranteed after their return. Those who wish to work during their leave can work up to 30 hours per week. Many Germans opt for part-time employment, working four hours a day, though experts advise not to rely too much on systematic welfare.

It’s more desirable to continue communicating with an employer during parental leave if one wishes to pursue a long-term career and take advantage of better opportunities. It helps to actively engage in projects and meetings while working from home.

But those who quit their jobs to care for their children should be cautious when returning to the work force. When applying for a new position, it is better not to indicate family status, as some employers may discriminate against new mothers, presuming them to be otherwise occupied or in need of more days off for family obligations.

Additionally, returning to work after a career interruption for reasons other than child care requires a more aggressive attitude and job-seeking. Enrolling in online schools or adult classes, or getting involved in volunteer or community activities, can provide a favorable impression.

For the women who have taken off from work for too long and put distance between themselves and their careers, I would advise that older applicants with more life experience apply for secretarial or administrative positions, or for jobs with a focus on caring for seniors. The demand for these positions isn’t decreasing, and seeking jobs in these areas would boost applicants’ chances while meeting the needs of society.

Like Germany, Korea is also struggling with an aging population, so it is only natural to offer various benefits to mothers. Social awareness needs to change as well. The mothers who are returning to the work place after having children should be known as the “women who saved the future of the nation.”

The author is a TV personality from Germany who appears on the JTBC talk show “Non-Summit.”

JoongAng Ilbo, July 9, Page 32


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