• Germany's news in English
Would Bernie Sanders be electable in Germany?
Bernie Sanders. Photo: DPA.

Would Bernie Sanders be electable in Germany?

The Local · 28 Jan 2016, 17:11

Published: 28 Jan 2016 17:11 GMT+01:00
Updated: 28 Jan 2016 17:11 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

US Senator Sanders said on Monday that "in Scandinavia, and in Germany... The ideas that I am talking about are not radical ideas". 

But how German are Sanders' policy ideas, and where would he lie on the German political spectrum?

The Local decided to compare some of Sanders' platforms to what actually goes on in his idealized Bundesrepublik.

1. Raising the minimum wage

Photo: DPA.

Bernie's proposal: Sanders wants to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020.

German reality: Given that a national minimum wage was only implemented last year in Germany, just the concept of a federal minimum wage is a bit radikal in Deutschland. Still, the German minimum wage is set at €8.50 - that would be about $9.25 in the US and thus $2 more an hour than the current wage standard.

The minimum was put into the 2013 coalition agreement by the Social Democratic Party. But it is not popular with pro-business politicians on the right of the coalition.

2. Equal pay for equal work

Germany's Families Minister Manuela Schwesig speaking on Equal Pay Day. Photo: DPA.

Bernie's proposal: Sanders wants to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which hopes to address the gender pay gap by punishing employers for retaliating against employees for sharing information about how much they're paid and allowing workers to sue for wage discrimination.

Estimates differ in the United States, but according to Pew Research Center, American women make 84 percent of what men do.

German reality: The issue of the gender pay gap is considered across party lines to be important in Germany - and it's definitely one that Germany hasn't solved: Women in Germany earn nearly 22 percent less than men per hour, making it one of the worst countries in the EU for equal pay.

The current coalition government of the conservative CDU and CSU parties with the centre-left SPD has agreed in principle to tackle the issue of the gender pay gap.

Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Manuela Schwesig is been pushing for a wage transparency law that would allow female employees to check their salaries against those of male counterparts.

3. Tuition-free universities

Photo: Students at the University of Cologne. Photo: DPA.

Bernie's proposal: Sanders wants to make public colleges and universities free in the US and even uses Germany as an example for why it's not such a "radical idea".

German reality: Each state, or Bundesland, is responsible for funding its universities. In 2005, a federal court lifted a ban on tuition fees, allowing states to start charging fees – some up to €500 per semester. But this met with so much outrage from the public that the states started rolling back the fees, the last state doing so in 2014.

Students can still be asked to pay certain fees that go towards things like a public transportation pass and a student union, but these amount to just a few hundred euros, paling in comparison to the tens of thousands that American students pay.

4. Fighting for LGBT equality

Photo: DPA.

Bernie's proposal: Sanders has various plans for how to promote LGBT rights, one of which is to pass a law that would prohibit public agencies from discriminating against potential foster or adoptive parents based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

German reality: While opinion polls might look otherwise, Germany actually lags behind many of its western European counterparts in this area. Same sex marriage is still not legal, and gay couples cannot adopt a child together.

The Social Democrats are in favour of gay marriage, as are smaller left-wing parties, the Greens and Die Linke. But Merkel remains opposed.

5. Vacation, sick time and parental leave

Photo: DPA.

Story continues below…

Bernie's proposal: Sanders wants 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, seven days of paid sick leave and ten days of paid vacation per year.

German reality: Under German law, workers are entitled to a minimum of 24 days paid leave per year - not including public holidays, of which there are a decent number. 

For sick leave, German law states that after you've worked somewhere for at least four weeks, you may continue to receive full wages for up to six weeks if you are unable to work due to reasons beyond your control.

Women receive six weeks of paid maternity leave before giving birth and eight weeks after the baby is born. Both men and women can also take parental leave up until the child is three, but they are not paid by their employer. However, they are still guaranteed work with their employer afterwards and are paid a parental allowance by the state.

These laws are not contentious and have well-established support the main political parties in Germany.

Conclusion: Sanders would 'fit in well'

According to Professor Thomas Greven of the John F. Kennedy Institute in Berlin, Sanders is a good fit for the left of German mainstream politics.

"Bernie Sanders is right," Greven told The Local. "In Germany, he'd fit in well with the workers' side of the SPD [Social Democratic Party]."

"Sanders is attempting to tie his concept of 'democratic socialism' to the European welfare states to avoid associations with Soviet socialism - which can be lethal in the American political discourse."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd