The 2012/05/03 at 06:50
A major source of inspiration for a number of French politicians including President Nicolas Sarkozy in recent months, Germany is often cited as an example to follow. But in the light of its social fallout, France's neighbour is collapsing under the weight of the economic policy initiated by the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, today being carried on by Angela Merkel. The Institute for Work, Skills and Training of the University of Duisburg-Essen is concerned about the fact that some 6.5 million persons are being paid under 10 euros (gross) per hour. This is almost 2.3 million more than ten years ago, indicates its report. Thorsten Kalina, a researcher at the Flexibility and Security department of the organisation specifies that "2 million Germans now have an hourly income of under 6 euros".
Another study carried out by the German Institute for Economic Research reveals that the monthly salary has dropped by 4.2% in the last decade. Poverty is becoming more widespread, boosted by growing job instability. "We can count 12 million persons living under the poverty line, in other words 15% of the population; 22% of working people belong to this category. Between 1992 and 2006, the incomes of 10% of the most poverty-stricken fell by 13%, while those of the richest grew by one-third," notes Thorsten Kalina. The Hartz reforms, gradually implemented from the start of the 2000s to facilitate the return to work, are at the heart of controversy. The development of unstable work situations, along with a heavy shrinkage in unemployment allowances, have considerably improved statistics in this domain.
There has been a soar in part-time contracts: in 2010, they represented 57% of the 322,000 new jobs, and in the last ten years, Germany has created 2 million jobs of this type, representing an average of 18.3 hours of work per week. The notorious jobs at one euro per hour, supposed to allow unemployed persons to preserve a social life and contact with the working world, cannot be refused when offered, at the risk of sanctions. “There are 7 million Germans subject to the Hartz IV Bill, whose monthly allowance sums are under the poverty line," points out Thorsten Kalina.
Opponents of this policy include, surprisingly enough, entrepreneurs, some of whom consider the Hartz Bill to be a stepping stone towards enforced labour. In February 2010, the Constitutional Court of Karlsruhe requested that the basic allowance sum to be reassessed, namely because its calculation method violated the right to a "fit living wage", as guaranteed by the Constitution. The minimum allowance for a single person with no children has only been increased by 15 euros since then, to a monthly sum of 374 euros. Given these evolutions, some members of the national press such as Der Spiegel, are speaking about the "hidden face" of Germany's economic success, with the drop in income being much more due to structural changes than changes stemming from the economic situation.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) stated, a few months ago in a report, that Germany's competitiveness policy is "the structural cause" of the Eurozone crisis. This decline in the current social model has been accompanied by growing inequalities. Employees earning the equivalent of 1,290 euros per month in 2000 lost 242 euros in monthly income ten years later. Over the same period, 20 % of the highest-earning workers have been gratified by increases in their incomes.