‘Mind the Pay Gap’: Reduced Berlin Transit Tickets for Women to Highlight Discrimination

BERLIN — In Germany, women are paid an average of 21 percent less than men, one of Europe’s widest gender pay gaps. In Berlin next week, for one day only, the public transportation system will offer them a corresponding discount.

The BVG, which runs the city’s bus, tram and subway systems and is the country’s largest public transit authority, will offer women an unlimited day pass for 5.50 euros, about $6.20, instead of the regular €7.

The Frauenticket, or women’s ticket, is limited to Monday, which campaigners in Germany have designated as Equal Pay Day, and the authority is calling the promotion “Mind the Pay Gap.”

“The women’s ticket not only challenges the discriminatory wage gap in our country, but also shows that the BVG itself is doing something about it,” Sigrid Nikutta, the authority’s director, said.

Despite its reputation as a socially progressive country — and its long-serving female leader — Germany has the third-widest pay gap in the European Union, according to 2017 figures from the bloc’s statistical agency. Only the Czech Republic and Estonia, both much smaller countries, did worse. (It also lags the United States, where the figure was 19.5 percent in 2017.)

Quotas for the representation of women on corporate boards became law here in 2015, but the number of women in the national Parliament has declined since then, with the arrival of a male-dominated delegation from the far-right Alternative for Germany. There are now two male lawmakers for every female one.

The city state of Berlin, which is governed by a coalition of progressive and socialist parties, has been actively pushing women’s rights, and for the first time this year made March 8, International Women’s Day, an official holiday in the city.

Iris Spranger, a member of the city’s House of Representatives who campaigned for that measure, is also supportive of the transportation system’s public relations exercise.

“The women’s ticket is an original idea to highlight the gender pay gap,” she wrote in an email. “The lively discussion alone shows that it was a good idea.”

According to Ms. Spranger, even more important than the ticket is the fact that the BVG has had an equal-pay policy since 2003.

Equal Pay Day, which in Germany this year falls on Monday, has been around since 1988. It symbolizes the extra days into the new year that German women have to work to earn the same as men.

The public transport system in Berlin attracts over three million riders a day and has rails spanning almost 300 miles. Its yellow subway cars have become symbols for the city, as have its cheeky ads.

In one of its online ads for the women’s ticket campaign, the BVG says: “Gender-specific wage gap. Sounds stupid. Is stupid. We’ll close it.”

Men found using the special tickets, the authority said, would be treated like regular fare evaders and charged €60.

But in a city where day passes are largely purchased by tourists — regular riders tend to buy monthly tickets — few men seemed to be taking offense at the idea.

“With the campaign, we also call on women to apply for jobs with us,” said Ms. Nikutta, the first woman to run the BVG and the first leader to make it profitable.