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Germans fear crisis, many would take to streets

The economic crisis is hitting the German psyche hard; a new survey says 72 percent of Germans are scared by the crisis and over 30 percent would demonstrate on the streets, Bild am Sonntag reported.

Germans fear crisis, many would take to streets
Photo: DPA

In the last week, German politicians and union leaders have debated whether or not social unrest will arrive in Germany once companies are forced to lay off workers and the economy slows down further.

The Sunday survey in Bild am Sonntag says 54 percent of Germans believe there will be unrest in the coming months. Eastern Germans are gloomier, with 61 percent percent believing that unrest is coming.

West Germans are more likely to take to the streets than those from the east, the survey found, with 34 percent of westerners saying they would demonstrate compared to only 27 percent of easterners.

The first big test of whether Germany’s social fabric is fraying comes next week on May 1st, the annual day of work celebrated all over Europe, often with labor demonstrations. In Berlin, where the annual demonstrations often turn violent, with anarchists burning cars and clashing with police, the city is preparing for larger-than-usual rallies.

“Attacks by extremists on police are rising,” Konrad Freiberg, the head of the Union of Police, told Bild. “Already by May first, the violence threatens to escalate.”

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EXPLAINED: Who will benefit from Germany’s minimum wage hike?

Germany's new €12/hour minimum wage, which came into force on October 1st, is set to benefit more than six million people. We look at exactly who is going to be helped by the €1.55/hour increase.

EXPLAINED: Who will benefit from Germany's minimum wage hike?

How much has the minimum wage risen by?
As of October 1st, the minimum wage now stands at €12 per hour, up from €10.45 previously, i.e. an increase of almost 15 percent.

How many people are going to benefit from the increase?
According to the Hans Böckler Foundation’ Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI), a trade union-linked research foundation, there are at least 6.64 million people who were earning less than €12 per hour before the increase. This includes 3.5 million women and 2.7 million men.

Will this mainly benefit people in full- or part-time work?
If we look at the number of hours worked, we can see the following picture: 1.4 million full-time employees will get a boost to their earnings, and 1.8 million part-time staff and three million people with so-called ‘mini-jobs’ will earn more per hour. A mini-job is where you can either earn a maximum monthly sum or work for no more than three months/70 days per year. Those who only have a mini-job don’t have to pay social security contributions.

The upper earnings limit for people with mini-jobs also rose on October 1st. People can now earn a maximum of €520 per month, up from €450/month previously. 

READ ALSO: The rules in Germany around mini and midi jobs

Does the increase have anything to do with the current energy crisis?
No. The coalition government had already planned this before Russia invaded Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis. After the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) passed the draft law on June 3, 2022, it was confirmed by the Bundesrat (upper house) on June 10 where concerns about the cost-of-living crisis played a key role in the final debate. At that time, several politicians warned that spiralling energy prices and inflation were making many people’s living situations untenable. The government has since introduced other initiatives to help people cope.

READ ALSO: Wohngeld: How people in Germany can get help with rising living costs

In which sectors will the increase have the biggest impact?
More than 60 percent of people working in the hospitality sector will be affected by the increase. According to government data, 46 percent of those working in the agricultural and forestry sector were earning below €12/hour. Thirty-two percent of those in the property sector and 29 percent in the transport and warehousing sector also earned less than the minimum wage.

What are trade unions and employers’ associations saying about the hike?
The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) has been pushing for an increase for a long time. DGB head Stefan Koerzell recently called the step “a ray of hope in these difficult times”. But the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations’ BDA called Labour and Social Affairs Minister Hubertus Heil’s draft law for the increase of the minimum wage “extremely questionable” from a political and legal perspective. The BDA’s criticism was not targeted at the increase itself, but rather the fact that it was the legislator who was deciding on wage increases instead of employers and trade unions.

What role do trade unions and employers’ associations play when it comes to the minimum wage?
Normally a big one – they sit on the minimum wage board. This committee normally proposes the incremental increases for the base hourly salary, which was introduced in 2015 – it then stood at €8.50. The new legal increase to €12 is outside of this usual mechanism, but the coalition government has promised that after this, the minimum wage commission will be responsible for future increases once again. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in October 2022

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