In Germany not all that glitters is gold

german elections

It is true that a record 41.8 million Germans are now in employment, but it is also fair to say that the quality of those jobs is questionable. Besides, it has become more frequent the need to find a second job so as to be able to make ends meet. Furthermore, there are more and more low paid and openly precarious jobs. The rise of the so-called minijobs has accelerated in the last months.

Germany has turned into a country with a huge percentage of low-paid workers. In early 2013, about 2.66 [million] people had a minijob in order to improve their economic situation, and now, one out of four employees earns less than 9.54 euros per hour. This situation particularly affects women. The problem is that there is no across-the-board minimum wage in Germany unlike in a majority of EU countries. Otherwise, competent authorities could control these practices.

On the other hand, there is not direct link between low payment and low-skilled workers. According to Institute of Labour Market Research of Nuremberg, more than 80% of minijobs belongs to high-skilled workers. Thus, 7.5 million people have a minijob in Germany.

Meanwhile, German politicians –full of fine words about how well they’ve done everything, are giving speeches about the “job miracle that Merkel champions as her government’s best achievement”. Nonetheless, the big parties are only campaigning in those cities that match their political requirements, forgetting little and impoverished towns that could ruin their vision of a flawless Germany.

Germany needs Europe
Not all is about Germany, though. Next May 2014, European Parliament elections will be held and it will be then when the future of Europe will come to the foreground. Politicians in Germany believe the European crisis is something alien to them. That it cannot affect them. But it can. As a matter of fact, it does affect them much more that what they think. Former chancellor Helmut Schmidt said, “(Germans) are very economically strong. But that also means that we have excessively strangled other countries.”

In that sense, American economist James Galbraith warned last summer that Europe should act to avoid an escalation of the crisis. He considers that, without Europe, “Germany would suffer a strong revaluation and the loss of competitiveness of its industry.”

Be that as it may, all German politicians have sold the issue of Europe’s future as something somewhat toxic. Politics expert Daniel Brössler explains “most German population believe that the Government has made every effort possible in the European crisis.” And he adds “Merkel has used in her campaign the prototype of the ‘austere and hardworking German’ that has to pay for the damage caused by the ‘spendaholic and unconcerned South Europeans’; and that image has penetrated deep into the collective conscience of the German people.”

*Image: DPA.

About the Author

Lidia Conde
She studied journalism at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Since 1991, Lidia lives and works in Germany as a correspondent for several Spanish newspapers, in which she has covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification. Seeking an answer to how Europe could become competitive and fair, too.

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