The 2012/07/03 at 07:00
While it was equivalent to 4.1 GDP points in 2001, clandestine work made up only 2.3 % of national production in 2008. This encouraging result was ascertained by a recent survey carried out on behalf of the Rockwool Foundation by a German economic expert, Lars P. Feld, Professor at the University of Fribourg.
Lars P. Feld nevertheless qualifies the results of his survey: “The drop in clandestine work does not however mean that the number of persons carrying out undeclared activities has shrunk.” He goes on to say that “since we started measuring clandestine work at the start of the 2000s, the share of the population from 18 to 74 years being paid under the table has remained constant at 10 %.” What has changed is the number of hours worked: from eight hours in 2001, the weekly working time for such activities has gone down to five hours. The beefing up of State monitoring has no doubt been dissuasive. On top of this, employment market reforms introduced during Gerhard Schroeder’s mandate, allowing businesses to create tax-exempt mini-jobs for salaries up to 400 euros per month and enabling individuals to take on the Ich-AG (type of auto-entrepreneurship) status, has meant that a certain number of working hours have emerged from clandestineness.
One million full-time jobs
What remains to be pointed out is that this practice remains common at a time when businesses are panicking about a labour shortage. As the survey reveals, clandestine work remains largely tolerated in a country where there are no measures such as employment service vouchers to pay cleaning ladies, child minders or after-school tutors…
Cumulated over the whole of the country, these undeclared hours are equivalent to one million full-time jobs, according to one of the survey’s estimates.
The country’s east, more affected by unemployment and also where clandestine work is more rife, indicates a rate of 16 % of the population regularly taking recourse to this solution, compared to 8 % in the west. Disparities are also found in age – 19 % of under-29-year-olds are paid under the table, for over six hours of work per week. The practice is more common in certain branches than others: one-sixth of hours worked in the building sector are not declared. After this sector in pole position come hospitality-catering and transport, with rates of 6.3 % and 4.3 % respectively. Clandestine work has often been raised as an argument by employers’ organisations and the IHKs (Chambers of Commerce and Industry) against the introduction of a minimum salary, supported by a minority in Germany. Yet the figures mentioned by the survey invalidate these fears: the average hourly salary rose from 10 euros in 2004 to 11 euros in 2008 – and this despite an increase in inflation indexed against a 14 % price rise. Also worth noting is that in 40 % of cases, clandestine work is exclusively remunerated by perks!