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5.1 Reducing unemployment


(167) Unemployment is not an ineluctable fate holding politics, industry and society firmly in its grip. There are indeed possibilities for big cuts in mass unemployment. Production and the national income in Germany have never been so high. Germany has a modern, well-developed infrastructure with efficient large, medium-size and small companies. Workers are highly qualified and motivated. The two sides of industry reach agreements and there is industrial peace. Prices are stable and interest rates low. There is therefore no cause to run down Germany as an industrial location. The Social Market Economy just has to prove that it can solve a problem like persistent mass unemployment and is therefore superior to an economic system without social obligations.

(168) As long as paid work is the basis for guaranteeing a livelihood, for social integration and personal development, it will be the task of a socially committed, equitable economic order to enable all women and men who need it, and so desire, to gain access to paid work. This will give them opportunities of participation, social integration, securing a livelihood and personal development. This challenge is addressed equally to politicians and collective bargaining parties, and also to chambers of trade and industry, chambers of crafts, the Bundesbank and individual companies. It also goes to a host of organisations which could sponsor employment initiatives, not least to the churches and their welfare agencies. Without a broad consensus in society, without concerted efforts, without a common cooperation of the different groups with responsibility there can be no progress. There are no simple and easy solutions to the problem of getting far more jobless people into employment. Many and varied are the ways that must be tried.

(169) In a successful, efficient and competitive economy new jobs must first be expected on the regular labour market. If unemployment is to be reduced, it is primarily competitive workplaces that have to be created. Particularly in years of persistent high unemployment and visibly fiercer international competition it would seem economically necessary and socially justified to call for wage and salary rises that are geared to productivity gains and do not raise unit wage costs. Labour market policy is dependent on the positive employment effects of dynamic change in economic structures.

(170) All those with responsibility in economic policy should therefore promote structural change by improving the business environment. The tax and contribution system urgently needs thorough reform with the goal of reducing them and at the same time making the system more conducive to job creation and more socially equitable. It is also necessary to step up incentives for technological and industrial innovation. Only in this way can high-tech products be produced and industry react quickly to changed market conditions. It is necessary to open up additional fields and potential for employment. This employment potential is chiefly to be sought in the field of new technologies and technological innovation (microelectronics, biotechnology, new media, use of new materials, environmental technologies, transport) and in the field of private services and those related to industry. Finally, it is necessary to improve the educational system. Education and training are to be understood as lifelong learning; they should not be restricted to specific periods of a person's life.

(171) Self-reliance and entrepreneurial initiative should also be promoted. Jobs have chiefly been created and preserved in the labour-intensive small and medium-size companies in crafts and manual trades. Not only do the majority of employees work there but they also provide the vast majority of training opportunities. Every new company founded in Germany offers on average four trainee places. Incentives must be given to a new culture of enterprise. There is great potential for business start-ups and self-employment in the field of manual trades and small or medium-sized companies. While still in general education or training, young people should be encouraged and enabled to set up a company, particularly as workers in all sectors of industry will in future have to be capable of demonstrating self-reliance and personal responsibility.

(172) The basic idea of sharing paid work has always been important to the churches in the discussion about combating unemployment. They have never claimed that unemployment could be overcome solely, or primarily, by sharing paid work. Yet this has to be done too. Cuts in working time without full pay can contribute to creating new jobs and help men and women to reconcile a family and a career. More part-time jobs and the reduction of overtime are also suited to distributing available work more broadly. Flexibility of working time enabling shorter and also longer working hours can also contribute to reducing unemployment (taking account of the interests of employers and employees, and the latters' families). While workers would have less pay, or have to do without pay rises, they would enjoy more leisure and more personal control over their time. Companies could set off higher costs against savings from flexible working hours and the possibility of using plant for longer periods. Improvements in operating results are also to be expected from a corporate culture based on partnership and participatory management, since that promotes higher motivation and creativity of employees and a higher identification with the company.

(173) From an ethical angle the question of sharing available work poses the difficult task of accommodating interests: between the unemployed, employees with low incomes, employees with high incomes, households with several high-earners, companies, full and part-time employees and the sexes. Shared work means shared wages. Yet not all can share their income, in particular not those who earn a low income in the first place. Increased part-time work and stints of work at irregular intervals affects social security in the event of unemployment and in old age; consequently there should be guaranteed minimum limits for social security. Low-paid jobs, if they are regular employment, should be subject to social insurance obligations. Uninsured jobs should remain the exception. Part-time employment should be increasingly offered to men too, and accepted by them, in order to avoid widening the split in the labour market to the detriment of women. Companies and public administrations are in particular to be encouraged to allow part-time work for higher-level positions as well.

(174) It is, finally, also necessary to use and refine all active instruments of labour market policy. These include upskilling unemployed people, and those threatened with unemployment, and the improvement of the occupational integration of the long-term unemployed. Here the whole sector of publicly subsidised work has an important function, ranging from the promotion of "employment companies" to the support for social enterprises and programmes like "Work not welfare" and job creation schemes. In using these instruments it is important that the different levels of government and the different labour market policy-makers jointly take responsibility for reducing mass unemployment. Even in view of scarce public funds it is more sensible to finance work than unemployment. There is plenty of work about. Ways and means have to be found to use the wealth of talent in society in such a way that it can also be paid for. There is a great demand in the field of environmental and landscape protection, household and person-related services, youth work, urban renovation and small-scale repairs. Despite preference for the regular labour market, some work will have to be subsidised; the human right to work cannot be implemented in the foreseeable future on the regular labour market alone. Publicly subsidised forms of work should be developed in cooperation with private industry involving a better combination of income from work and social security; in this way incentives should be created for an easier change from unemployment, or from job creation schemes into regular employment. Here it will be necessary for the comparatively small wage paid by the employer to be supplemented by an additional social income, so that the employees do not fall into poverty.

(175) There should be greater promotion of the local employment initiatives that have arisen in close cooperation between municipalities, free initiatives, companies and social institutions like parishes, unions, chambers of trade and industry, or chambers of crafts. A decentralised labour market policy can develop appropriate strategies for the creation of employment, e.g. offer employers the possibility of meeting members of problem groups in the labour market on a trial basis.

(176) When trying to resolve the employment crisis the point is ultimately to overcome the "dominance of paid work" and for society to recognise and support different forms of work. Work is not merely remunerated but is also done in the family and in voluntary activities. These forms of work are particularly important in the churches and in public life. This is an appropriate place to highlight the intermediate forms between contractual paid employment, home-making and voluntary work. They are gaining in importance in view of greater leisure time, the difficulty of access to the labour market, improved education and training and an increasing demand to engage in activities necessary to society.

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