Just how liberal is Germany anyway?

For Brits who voted "remain" and are now looking to move to a more liberal European country, Germany may not in fact be for you, says a new report.

Just how liberal is Germany anyway?
Image: MoveHub

A new ranking by MoveHub, which lists countries around the world in order of how liberal they are, places Germany at 13th globally – a bit more liberal than Latvia and Australia, but not as liberal as the UK, Canada or Portugal.

“If you, like so many people in Trump’s America or post-Brexit Britain feel disconnected from your fellow countrymen and unsure about your future in your current country of residence and want to consider your options, do not worry, because MoveHub has compiled a list of the most liberal countries you could move to in 2017,” the report states at the start.

MoveHub, a website that helps people move abroad, used data from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016, the 2016 Social Progress Index report and Yale’s Environmental Performance Index 2016. They then ranked countries based on factors such as gender equality, the rights of minorities, personal safety and environmental factors such as soil, air and water quality.

Iceland came in as the most liberal location, followed by Finland, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand.

Image: MoveHub

The least liberal countries were Chad, Pakistan, Iran, Mali and Yemen.

While Germany fell into the top 15 countries worldwide for liberalism, the country's traditional parties have been upset over the past year by the sudden success of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which won seats in various state parliaments last year – including the typically left-leaning capital, Berlin.

The AfD is currently polling at around 15 percent nationally, and has gained much of its success based on its anti-immigrant rhetoric amid the large number of refugees arriving in the country.

In the gender gap report, Germany came in 13th place – perhaps surprisingly behind Burundi as well as countries like Nicaragua, Slovenia, the Philippines and Rwanda. A major part of this was because it was ranked so low (57th place) for women's economic participation and opportunities, as well as for health and survival. Germany was in fact ranked 100th for women's educational attainment.

Germany has one of the widest pay gaps in Europe, ranking only above seven other countries in an Expert Market report released in October. Women earn 21.6 percent less than men in Germany – which is a wider margin  than the European average of 16.5 percent, according to 2015 government data.

The discrepancy is in part down to the fact that women in Germany tend more often to work in low-paid jobs or sectors, or only part time.

But the country has passed legislation in recent years, hoping to shrink the gap through a wage transparency law, and a so-called “women's quota” for high level positions at big businesses.

In the social progress index – which examines countries abilities to meet basic human needs, provide foundations for well-being and create opportunities – Germany ranked 15th place, ahead of Belgium and France, but below Japan and Austria. This index noted that Germany fell behind due to its restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, as well as for tolerance and inclusion.

The environmental index ranked Germany at 30th place, below Hungary and above Azerbaijan and Russia. 

“I was most surprised at its ranking for the Environmental Progress Index at number 30, as I'd read recently that almost 100 percent of Germany's power had come from renewable energy in 2016,” Harriet Cann of MoveHub told The Local.

The environmental report explained that while Germany was known for having historically good environmental records, its ranking fell due to the report placing more emphasis on air quality, and because it was outperformed by countries that had shown greater improvements.

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Sweden Democrats threaten government crisis over biofuels obligation

The far-right Sweden Democrats are threatening to push Sweden's three-party ruling coalition into a political crisis as they fail to reach agreement over how drastically to cut the country's biofuels obligation, a key part in its plan to reduce emissions.

Sweden Democrats threaten government crisis over biofuels obligation

The party is claiming that a pledge in the Tidö Agreement calling for the biofuels obligation, or reduktionsplikt, to be cut to the “lowest EU level”, should mean that the amount of biofuels that must be blended into petrol and diesel and Sweden should be cut to close to zero, rather than to about half the current share, as suggested by ongoing EU negotiations. 

“We are being tough in the negotiations because of the power we have as the biggest party in this bloc,” Oscar Sjöstedt, the party’s finance spokesperson told TV4. “There is going to be a change at the end of the year that is going to be pretty significant and substantial, that I’m 99.9 percent certain about, otherwise we will have a government crisis.” 

The Liberal Party is pushing for a much less severe reduction, perhaps to a little more than half the current level, where 30.5 percent of all petrol and diesel must be biofuel. 

“We have signed up to a temporary reduction in the biofuels obligation, and it’s clear that that is what we are going to do, but zero is not an alternative for us,” the Liberal Party’s leader Johan Pehrson told TV4.

The decision to reduce the amount of biofuel in the mix at Swedish pumps has made it much more difficult for Sweden to meet its targets for emissions reductions, putting pressure on Pehrson’s colleague, Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari. 

Next Wednesday, Pourmokhtari will have to defend the extent to which her government’s policies have pushed Sweden away from being able to meet its 2045 target of net zero emissions when the The Swedish Climate Policy Council reports on the country’s progress towards its target.