What would a general vaccine mandate mean for the German job market?

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What would a general vaccine mandate mean for the German job market?
Construction workers lay cables in Schulenberg, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

The Covid-19 pandemic barely made itself felt on the unemployment figures in Germany this winter. Could that change if plans for a general vaccine mandate end up going ahead?


As Germany battles its fiercest wave of Covid yet, the impact on the job market has been barely noticeable.

Under the latest figures released in January, around 2.46 million adults were out of work at the start of the year - around 133,000 more than in December.

However, this increase in unemployment can be largely traced back to the so-called 'winter' effect, where seasonal workers and those in industries like construction tend to be laid off. 

Discounting this group of workers, unemployment actually decreased by around 50,000 in January, experts say.

READ ALSO: Working in Germany: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re paid

"The job market got off to a good start in 2022," Daniel Terzenbach, head of the Federal Employment Agency, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday. Unemployment hasn't risen nearly as much as it usually does in winter, he added.

One reason could be the fact that, despite hefty Covid restrictions on hospitality businesses, most of the people employed in this sector have retained their jobs - albeit on so-called 'Kurzarbeit' (shortened working hours). 

Nevertheless, with the government mulling over a general vaccine mandate for over-18s, there are questions about how such a move could influence Germany's labour market. 

Under current Covid rules, a 3G policy applies in the workplace, meaning employees must present evidence of vaccination, recovery or a negative test in order to come to work on-site. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about Germany’s new workplace Covid rules

At the moment, privacy laws mean that employers aren't allowed to question their employees on their vaccination status specifically. But this could all change if the government's plans for a general mandate are brought into force. 


According to Detlef Scheele, head of the German Employment Agency, a mandate would give employers the right to enquire about their workers' - and job applicants' - vaccination status. 

If vaccinations were compulsory, companies would probably also be allowed to reject unvaccinated applicants, he added. 

Currently, around 18 percent of working-age adults are unvaccinated in Germany, suggesting that millions of workers could fall afoul of a general mandate if they don't change their minds. 

Benefit sanctions

A key point of contention is whether unvaccinated people unable to enter the job market would be then be entitled to state financial support.

Scheele said that in such cases, his authority would have to check whether unemployment benefits would need to be docked for a certain period time. 

By law, people are generally only entitled to unemployment benefits if they are available to enter the job market, he explained. 

Scheele's comments were met with concern by FDP deputy leader Wolfgang Kubicki, who has long been a vocal opponent of the mandate. 

"It's unbearable for me that people are put in the wrong simply because of their vaccination status," Kubicki said.

The idea of docking unemployment benefits has also been criticised on the left of politics.

Speaking to German daily Bild, Left Party MP Sahra Wagenknecht, who has spoken out about being unvaccinated, described the proposals as "unbelievable". 

Sarah Wagenknecht

Left Party politician Sarah Wagenknecht speaks to the media in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / Michael Kappeler/dpa | Michael Kappeler

"An occupational ban for unvaccinated people in care and health institutions, loss of earnings in quarantine for non-vaccinated people and now they want to deny unemployment benefits to employees who have not been vaccinated?

READ ALSO: German authorities signal reprieve for unvaccinated health workers

"I find it unbelievable how arbitrariness and social blackmail are rampant here," she said.

Talks are currently underway in the federal government on how to anchor compulsory vaccination in labour law.

As politicians mull over the implementation of the measure, some believe it could be more effective to forbid unvaccinated employees from entering a company than issuing a one-off fine. 


However, the proposals for compulsory jabs are not set in stone yet. German MPs will first have to face a decision between competing pieces of legislation envisioning different types of vaccine mandate - or no mandate at all.

Each of these bills could then falter when it comes to passing the vote in parliament - and if one of them passes, the government could still face opposition when the law comes to be implemented by the states. 


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Anonymous 2022/02/08 03:30
My reply seems to have been lost. I wrote a huge reply but deleted almost all of it. To clarify what I meant. My body. My choice. To use your example. A child has the right not to be molested. This is unquestionable. Another person does not have the right to molest a child. My question is. At what point does the child loose the right not to be molested.
Anonymous 2022/02/08 03:17
I wrote a huge reply took me about an hour. Then I got to this statement. I've decided to delete everything else, I was wasting words. I will try to clarify what I meant. My body. My choice. To use your example. The child has the right to not be molested. This should be unquestionable. The person doing the molestation does not have the right to do that to somebody. My question is at what point does the child loose the right to not be molested?
Anonymous 2022/02/06 13:37
No dude, this is what leads to atrocities: Someone who is medically able but refuses to get a little jab to help protect the 5-10% of society that is in deadly danger or too young to be vacinated is just plain selfish so don't try to guilt or shame me for the consequences of their own choices.
  • Anonymous 2022/02/07 19:57
    The two are not one in the same. But thats fine. No atrocities have been committed because the ex pope probably touched children too. Forced vaccination as written in history books has a track record per say. In Germany. Just to be sure. None of the covid vaccines stop you from passing it on. Or catching it. Or getting sick. Or dying. They have only ever claimed that it will reduce symptoms. So by getting it you are not protecting anyone but yourself. Thats fine. If you want to get one for yourself every 3 months or every 3 years. That fine. You go do you. I absolutely draw the line at forcing anything on anyone who doesn't want it. I realise the danger that could and does pose for people who could really suffer should they have the misfortune of catching a bad case of covid. We should try to protect these people. (2 years in I still go shopping for elderly neighbours because that's the right course of action im not stabbing them, in their arms. For their own good.) The great big elephant in the room no one really wants to talk about is where a persons right to self determination and the collective "greater good" merge. And also why? Why does one person have a right to a free life over another. Should we force vaccination on people? If so why? To what end? Your not the first to criticize my view. Thats fine, prove me wrong and I will learn from it. But rather than just tell me im wrong because I dont share your point of view. Explain to me why I am wrong to draw these similarities. Do you have evidence our government will stop at covid vaccine number 4? They didn't at 1. 2 or 3. How far should we go? I never tried to guilt you or shame you for others actions. I would shame you for thinking these people are beneath you because they don't share your view. Everyone in reality is selfish. We are all looking out for number 1. Very few people can hold the true burden that is looking out for others. For the good of mankind. That kind of pressure takes true courage. I have only ever been privileged to witness it. Once.
Anonymous 2022/02/01 18:55
So not only will unvaccinated be kicked out of their jobs. The government won’t help them so they get kicked out of their homes. Jobs only for the vaccinated. Homes only for the vaccinated. Anybody agreeing with this should genuinely hold their heads in shame. This isn’t just wrong. This is what leads to atrocities. It looks like Germany hasn’t learned a thing. Words fail me. How is this acceptable. And my comment gets censored. For what? For being concerned that we are doing to a significant minority of the population is morally bankrupt. Appears we can no longer have dissenting opinions. The lamps are going out all over Germany. I fear, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time
Anonymous 2022/02/01 15:11
So not only will unvaccinated be kicked out of their jobs. The government won't help them so they get kicked out of their homes. Jobs only for the vaccinated. Homes only for the vaccinated. Anybody agreeing with this should genuinely hold their heads in shame. This isn't just wrong. This is what leads to the gas chambers. It looks like Germany hasn't learned a thing. Words fail me. How is this acceptable. To the people who actually want this and when it comes to fruition. I hope you reap the hate you have sown. This might destroy the unvaccinated first. But who want this will have to bear the shame of what comes next. I hope im wrong.

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