The 2012/12/11 at 08:49
Marie Luginsland, in Germany
They represent newsstands that sell drinks and sausages, but also SMEs specialised in mechanical construction as well as groups listed on the DAX (the German CAC 40). The 80 German CCIs* have a total of 5 million member businesses, obliged by law to join the Chamber representing the region where their head offices are located.
To put an end to the recent controversy surrounding compulsory membership (see Actu-CCI of 2012/11/19) and a lack of transparency in Chamber structures, the DIHK**, the federation for German CCIs, has created a new portal www.ihk-transparenz.
Launched on 30 November, the portal reveals in broad daylight the various competences of these Chambers in the field: they manage apprenticeship, they provide information and advice on export, they organise exams relating to professional training, they create grants for the recycling of materials… As a shop-front for German CCIs, www.ihk-transparenz.de uses statistics to show their role in the regional economic fabric. The portal also allows visitors to consult data – from now on centralised – on each of the 80 CCIs to find out more on individual profiles.
A bastion for professional training
This mine of information draws portal visitors into the midst of the Chamber world. “It is difficult to standardise all the data. Of course differences still exist in the way data is entered. These will persist, partly due to regional disparities, differences in the size of CCIs and the individual aims of each of them,” warns Achim Dercks, Deputy Manager of the DIHK. “But the procedure is underway and it can be perfected,” he continues enthusiastically.
The breadth of data accessible online by the wide public is already impressive. A total of 41 domains are explored, figured, and duplicated on the scale of each of the 80 CCIs. End to end, these figures provide a picture of the web woven by the 8,200 CCI employees and the 218,400 volunteers serving five million or so businesses, 73 % of which are VSEs. A survey conducted by EMNID indicates that 80 % of businesses are satisfied with the quality of work provided by the CCIs: advice and support for business creation, tax and legal information, support in a business’s crisis situations…
Professional and on-the-job training constitute one of the main axes of Chamber activity. In this way, close to 800,000 degrees, including 192,000 in the context of continuing education, are awarded every year by the Chambers. As exam centres for 850,000 apprentices every year, Chambers are an important pillar in work-study training programmes for young people. Thanks to the contribution of 150,000 volunteer examiners, enrolment and exam fees are maintained at between 211 and 280 euros.
A global budget of 16.7 million euros
Beyond training, CCIs are involved in different facets of company life. In 2011, 280,000 interviews for advice on business creation and 340,000 consultations for customs fees were granted. Similarly, last year, over 40,000 businesses obtained information on opportunities on foreign markets from international branches of the German CCIs, the AHK***, namely 120 offices present in 80 countries.
According to the DIHK, the range of these offers open to all businesses whatever their size is enough to justify the yearly membership fee requested from each member making over 5,200 euros in profits per year. For the one-third of German businesses earning below this threshold, a median yearly fee of 320 euros is partly composed of a fixed sum and a variable sum indexed on the company’s profits. In a currently favourable economic context, the 80 German CCIs wield an average yearly total budget of 16.7 billion euros.
Will these efforts in favour of transparency, to be followed up in coming months by the publication of the salaries of permanent staff members, suffice to silence sceptics at a time when dissident movements attempt to infiltrate the Chambers? The DIHK reiterates the efforts being made towards democratisation by the Chambers, pointing out the excellent representation of SMEs in Chamber assemblies. 60 % of the 80 Presidents are managers of SMEs****. The DIHK also signals the considerable involvement of businesses in Chamber life. In this way, 5,300 business delegates, 15 % of whom are women, sit at the assemblies, considered to act as parliaments for the regional economic world. In addition, the role of delegate is highly sought after: in 2011, there were 1.64 candidates for every position. What needs to be done now is to motivate businesses at a time when their participation rate in Chamber elections varies from 5 % to 22 % between the North Sea and the Alps and the Rhine-Oder regions!
* IHK in German (Industrie-und Handelskammer) ** DIHK (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag ***Auslandshandelskammer ****According to the European definition, companies with fewer than 250 employees producing yearly turnovers of under 50 million euros