#149: Mask thoughts, new apartments, headscarves
And women continue to earn less
Hey 20 Percent!
About a year after I graduated college, I was having beers with my older brother. At some point in the evening he casually said: “I have to get going soon, I have homework to do.” As soon as he said it, my body automatically went into panic mode, convinced that I, too, had homework to do. My blood pressure increased. Adrenalin coursed through my veins.
I nearly ordered the check.
It was an automatic response after years — decades, actually — of always having homework or some test hanging over my head. All I needed to hear was the word “homework” and my body switched into damage control mode, ready to pull an all-nighter.
But since I’d graduated, I had nothing due, and would never have another academic test to fret over. Neither would my brother — he just said it as a joke, because he knew what my dumb brain would do to me, if only for a few seconds.
And I remembered that prank yesterday as I went to board a tram and panicked briefly as I searched for a mask. It took me a minute to remember I no longer needed one — corona-related masks on public transport became another entry in the pandemic history book on Feb. 2. But it may take my brain a few to catch up — I still reflexively reach for one every time I enter a store.
The only corona rules that remain in effect in Berlin are the need to quarantine if you have Covid-19, and to mask up in healthcare, elder care and homeless facilities.
Now do your homework.
Have a good weekend!
No new flats
Vonovia, Berlin’s biggest landlord, late last month said it won’t start construction on any new apartments this year in Berlin or Potsdam because costs had gotten to high in relation to rents — new units that would have previously gone for €12 per square meter would now have to be rented for €20/qm to make economic sense, CEO Daniel Riedl told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. The company had planned on starting construction on 1,500 new apartments in Germany’s capital this year but will now wait. The company will complete partially completed projects and will continue planning and permitting for new construction in case conditions improve (ergo, costs fall or rents rise…), according to RBB24.
You already know this: lacking cycling infrastructure
Speaking of not building: Four-and-a-half years after passing a law to improve non-car transport in Berlin, the city-state has only built 4.2 percent of the planned bike paths set out in the Mobilitätsgesetz, the anti-car law from 2008, according to Tagesspiegel. Even worse — only about a quarter of the new paths meet the modern standards for the width of bike paths. To meet its goals, Berlin would have to hire 80 new planners, which sounds like a herculean bureaucracy. Riding a bike in Berlin is often an adventure with paths ending without notice or being usurped by a construction site or impromptu loading zone.
Headscarves and crosses are fine
Germany’s highest court this week said Berlin can’t prevent teachers from wearing headscarves and other religious symbols in class unless they pose an “immediate danger” to peace in the school, according to taz. The court refused to hear an appeal of a similar ruling by a lower labor court, essentially upholding the ruling. A muslim computer specialist sued Berlin in 2020 after it refused to hire her because she was unwilling to not wear her head covering while teaching — the labor court said the non-hiring was an infringement of her religious freedom and awarded her just over €5,159.88 in damages. Berlin based the decision on a 2005 law that prohibits teachers from wearing religious symbols in the classroom. The law appears to target all religions but was born from a general, Europe-wide hysteria over head coverings at the time.
Last year, women’s hourly pay in Berlin was approximately 10% lower than men’s, according to the Berlin-Brandenburg Statistics Office, reports Tagesspiegel. In 2022, women earned an average of €22.54 per hour compared to €25.02 for men. Back in 2006, the pay gap amounted to 23%, the office said.
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