For members


Jobs in Germany roundup: What an SPD-led coalition could mean for workers

We are still a long way off of knowing what Germany's new government will be. But with talks underway, we looked at what the possible Traffic Light coalition could mean for the future of working life.

Jobs in Germany roundup: What an SPD-led coalition could mean for workers
Archive photo shows a working from home set up in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) secured a victory by a whisker in Germany’s election on Sunday, closely followed by the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) with their Bavarian sister party, the CSU. 

As we’ve been reporting, both parties want to form a coalition with the Greens, who came third in the election, and the Free Democrats (FDP) who landed in fourth place. As the SPD came first in the election they are seen as having an advantage on trying to form a coalition. According to polls, the German public is also most in support of an SPD-led ‘Traffic Light’ coalition government.

Here’s a look at what this constellation could mean for people working in Germany. For more on what the coalitions mean and what could happen next, check out our story here:

Jamaica or traffic light: What’s next for Germany and what does it mean?

Traffic Light (Ampel) – SPD-led coalition with Greens and FDP 

MINIMUM WAGE: With the Social Democrats at the helm, the Traffic Light would have a focus on raising the minimum wage. 

The SPD wants to hike up the German minimum wage by about two euros, taking the so-called Mindestlohn up to €12 an hour. This is an ambition it shares with the Greens which wants to see the minimum wage go up “immediately”.

The business-friendly FDP doesn’t mention increasing the minimum wage in its manifesto – and the party has been against minimum wage thresholds in the past. But with an SPD-Green coalition it seems likely that this could be pushed through. 

STARTUPS: Here’s where things could work out quite well in this constellation. The SPD describe start-ups as “important growth engines for the economy” and say they want to turn Germany into the “startup capital of Europe” by introducing easier access to capital and state-funding, offering organisational support through agencies, and fostering a “culture of second chances” which would include changes to bankruptcy law.

For freelancers and solo-entrepreneurs, a new type of insurance would ensure that they were covered during difficult times through the job centre – a bit like jobseekers’ allowance for the unemployed. They would also be integrated in the pension system step by step, while the social insurance for artists would be expanded to cover a wider range of self-employed individuals. 

The SPD’s chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz in a group picture after the meeting of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The FDP is also pro-innovation – they say they want to “awaken the entrepreneurial spirit” in Germany.

They also want to see more support for the self-employed. “We want to eliminate unequal treatment and, for example, finally reduce contributions for the self-employed to statutory health insurance,” the party’s manifesto says. 

Lots of foreigners in Germany are self-employed or work in startups, especially in cities, so it will be interesting to see how this discussion develops in coalition talks. 

TAXES: This could be a sticking point. The SPD wants lower taxes for lower and middle class earners – but not for the rich. In their 2021 manifesto, the SPD promises to “lower taxes for the majority”.

“We will carry out an income tax reform that improves small and medium incomes, strengthens purchasing power and, in return, makes the top five percent pay more for the financing of important public tasks,” they say.

While the liberals are keen for lower taxes across the board, the bulk of their tax relief initiatives would be for high-earners and businesses – so this is bound to create problems in this kind of constellation. 

The Greens have a fairly similar tax policy to that of the SPD, although they would offer more tax relief to the least well off.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What the German parties’ tax pledges mean for you

INNOVATION AND DIGITAL UPGRADES: This is an important point in all the parties’ programmes, not least because Germany is seen as falling behind other countries on these points. 

For the Greens, though, innovation has to have a climate focus – the bottom line of their party. 

“We are launching a decade of investment in the future, the Greens manifesto says. “In fast Internet, in cutting-edge research, in charging stations, in hydrogen technologies and in modern urban development.

“We want to make energy-intensive industries technology pioneers in the development of climate-neutral processes.

“Green financial markets play an important role in the fight against the climate crisis.”

The Free Democrats are calling for a ‘Ministry for Digital Transformation’.

“To create a leaner and more efficient government, we want to bundle competencies in one ministry and link it closely with the other government departments,” says the FDP programme. “This is the only way we can shape the digital transformation of the state, society and the economy quickly, efficiently and consistently for the benefit of everyone in our country.”

UNEMPLOYMENT SUPPORT: The SPD wants to reform the controversial Hartz IV unemployment benefit or Arbeitslosengeld II – the programme it came up with back in 2002. The SPD say they want to switch to a benefits system based on encouragement rather than sanctions.

The SPD want to call it: Bürgergeld. (Which translates to ‘citizens’ fund’).

The Greens want to get rid of Hartz IV and replace it with a guaranteed security system that “protects against poverty and guarantees the socio-cultural minimum subsistence level without sanctions,” says their manifesto. 

The FDP stands to the right on this issue and is is in favour of restricting unemployment benefits. They want to encourage more people into the workforce. 

FOREIGN QUALIFICATIONS: In its section on ‘Zusammen Leben’ (living together), the SPD dedicates a paragraph or so to the discussion of jobs. As we saw in the aftermath of Brexit, third-country migrants in Germany face major hurdles in getting their professional qualifications recognised in Germany, meaning some lawyers, accountants, master bakers, etc., are unable to prove their competence in their field without jumping through numerous hoops.

The SPD says it wants to ensure that foreign qualifications are recognised in Germany. It also wants to end discriminatory selection policies for work in the public sector. At present, a number of public-sector roles (at state universities, for example) are EU-only jobs, meaning highly qualified non-EU people are shut out from applying for them. According to the SPD’s manifesto, this would end if they were in power. 


Other interesting points:

In its manifesto, the FDP calls for more flexibility when it comes to working hours, in particular. They call for weekly instead of a daily maximum working hours, which would make it possible for people to work four instead of five days for example. 

“While our competitors stand for ‘more of the same’ or a swing to the left, we stand for freedom, modernisation and sustainability through innovation,” say the FDP.

The Greens want to cut red tape in the workforce. “By reducing bureaucracy, providing support for succession and and targeted support for training in the skilled trades, we want to ensure the future viability of a strong skilled trades sector,” the party says in its manifesto. 

READ ALSO: What a CDU-led coalition could mean for foreigners in Germany

Is this coalition going to happen?

We have absolutely no idea at this stage. Talks are at the very beginning and we’re set for weeks or months of negotiations but we’ll keep you posted on the latest developments. 

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For members


How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck!