Deciphering the “employment miracle” in Germany

  In recent years, the steady performance of the German labor market has been eye-catching. Neither the 2008 international financial crisis nor the new crown pneumonia epidemic that began in 2020 have caused the German unemployment rate to fluctuate sharply.
  Does the German labor market have some kind of “shock absorber” that can absorb all kinds of severe external shocks? The answer is yes. This magical “shock absorber” consists of a long-term mechanism and buffer measures during a crisis.
“Replace support with activation”

  The long-term mechanism of ensuring employment in the German labor market began with a vigorous reform of the welfare state system at the beginning of the 21st century. With the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, economic globalization set off a wave of development. The global mobility of capital has greatly improved, but welfare is difficult to globalize. As a result, traditional welfare states feel tremendous pressure in international competition.
  In Germany, with the economic development in the decades after the end of World War II, the welfare system has continued to expand. On the one hand, high welfare has become a hotbed for nourishing inertia; on the other hand, the high non-wage costs and welfare expenditures have also brought a heavy burden on enterprises and finances.
  Against this background, the German Chancellor and Social Democrat Schroeder, who came to power in 1998, began to think about the reform of the welfare state. Inspired by Giddens’ theory of “the third way” (the middle way between laissez-faire capitalism and the welfare state), Schroeder and the then British Prime Minister Blair published the famous “Schroeder” in 1999. The “De/Blair Document” (the full name is “The Way Forward for European Social Democrats”), proposes a new welfare state idea of ​​”replacement of support with activation”, which is intended to strengthen individual self-responsibility. The concept of “activation” thus entered the political horizon and became the core concept of the later German labor market reforms.
  Before the reform, the German labor market had a strange phenomenon of insufficient labor and a high unemployment rate. There were three reasons: first, the excessive protection of employees made the labor market extremely rigid and inhibited normal market behavior; second, the time for receiving unemployment benefits Too long and too high, the unemployed lack a sense of urgency to re-employ; third, with the advancement of technology and changes in industrial structure, the market’s requirements for labor are constantly changing, and the demand for labor is in short supply, and it is out of touch with market demand. People may fall into the predicament of long-term unemployment.
  The Schroeder government gradually initiated labor market reforms in 2001, and basically completed the framework reform in 2005. The reform mainly includes the following aspects: One is to encourage the unemployed to re-employ. Significantly reduce the level of unemployment benefits, shorten the time limit for receiving unemployment benefits, and recipients must accept the employment opportunities provided to them by the Labor Bureau. The second is to reduce the burden on employers and lower the employment threshold. Relaxation of dismissal protection regulations, relaxation of employment restrictions for temporary workers, increase of wage ceilings for “Minijob” (low-paying jobs that are tax-free and optional social insurance premiums), and abolish working hours restrictions. The third is to transform the functions of the labor department. Establish a labor bureau that directly links with enterprises, and shift the focus of work from managing the unemployed to helping them re-employ. The fourth is to amend the “Vocational Education Law.” Based on the traditional dual system of vocational education in Germany, vocational education is integrated into the various professional stages of laborers, and the responsibility and status of enterprises in vocational education are further emphasized.
  It can be seen that Schroeder’s reforms focused on reducing welfare as the main direction. Welfare policy has always been extremely rigid. The tremendous pain caused by this reform caused Schroeder to lose in the 2005 general election. The German Social Democratic Party under his leadership also split, and the left-wing party at the far left end of the German political spectrum was born. .
  However, when people stand today and look back at this reform, it is no exaggeration to say that its effects have been outstanding. Since 2005, the unemployment rate in Germany has fallen steadily, from double digits to 5% to 6% in recent years, which is almost a drop. Half, even the severe crises in 2008 and 2009 did not affect the general trend of the labor market steadily improving.
  Merkel, who defeated Schroeder to take over as German Federal Chancellor at the time, praised Schroeder in his inauguration speech in 2005 for “bringing open the door of reform bravely.” Schroeder’s reforms laid an important foundation for stable employment and sound development of finance and economy in Germany, which has now become the consensus of German academic circles, political circles and public opinion.
Flexible and effective short-term measures

  In addition to the above-mentioned long-term mechanism, the German labor market has flexible and effective short-term response measures during the crisis.
  The international financial crisis that broke out in 2008 caused a huge impact on the world’s major economies, and Germany suffered heavy losses due to its high dependence on economic exports. In 2009, Germany’s economic growth rate was -5.1%, and the degree of recession greatly exceeded the overall level of the Eurozone. However, Germany’s unemployment rate in 2009 only rose slightly by 0.3 percentage points to 8.1% compared with 2008, and then went down quickly as the economy recovered strongly. As of 2012, the unemployment rate in Germany fell to a low of 6.8%, which was about half of the overall unemployment rate in the Eurozone. The outstanding performance of the German labor market in this global crisis has been called the “German Employment Miracle” by economist Krugman.
  Germany’s miracle crisis response measure is to make full use of the internal flexibility of the labor market to avoid a wave of dismissals. According to the principles of national economics, the level of employment is affected by the three factors of economic growth, working hours and labor productivity. During the economic downturn, if the per capita working time is shortened and the labor productivity is lowered, it is possible to maintain the number of employed persons and avoid layoffs. This change in labor time and labor density is the “internal elasticity” of the labor market.
  From a practical point of view, Germany mainly adopted “short-time work” measures to quickly reduce per capita working time in a short period of time. Short-term work means that enterprises that have been hit by the crisis apply to the government to shorten their working hours and accordingly only pay part of their wages. The remainder of the wages is paid by unemployment insurance in the form of short-term work subsidies.
  After the outbreak of the crisis, the German government introduced the “Economy Package II” to promote employment and stability, increase financial investment in the field of short-term work, and lower the threshold for enterprise applications. In 2010, the German economy began a strong recovery. The gross industrial production increased by more than 11%. In 2011, the growth rate was more than 8%. A large number of employees took advantage of the trend to withdraw from short-term work. In 2009, Germany had an average of 1.14 million short-time jobs receiving subsidies throughout the year. In 2010, the number quickly decreased to 503,000, and in 2011 there were only 148,000.
  In 2009, Germany’s labor productivity per working hour also declined, because while reducing the working hours of employees, Germany also reduced the labor density per working hour through measures such as equipment maintenance and employee training. This approach not only further absorbs the impact of the economic downturn on the labor market in the short term, but also prepares for the rapid recovery of production capacity and occupation of the market after the economic recovery, avoiding the high costs that may be caused by layoffs, re-recruitment, and new employee adaptation. . In fact, with the rapid economic recovery, Germany’s labor productivity in 2011 has already surpassed the level before the crisis.
  Facing the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic this time, Germany continued to use the experience of the crisis in 2008 to buffer by increasing short-term work.
  In the second quarter of 2020, which was hit hardest by the first round of the epidemic, the number of short-term workers in Germany soared from nearly 1 million in the first quarter to 5.4 million. By the time the epidemic eased in the third quarter, business operations improved, the number of short-term workers was halved, and working hours increased-short-term workers reduced their working hours by an average of 43% in the second quarter and only 35% in the third quarter . From the perspective of the annual unemployment rate, the annual average unemployment rate in 2020 is 5.9%, which is only 0.9 percentage points higher than before the outbreak, and is still at a historically low level.
The hidden worries behind the dazzling data

  The reforms initiated by Schroder aimed at “activation” have constructed a long-term mechanism for guaranteeing employment, and a package of measures centered on exerting the internal flexibility of the labor market has constructed a buffer mechanism for responding to crises. The two mechanisms cooperate with each other to achieve success. Germany’s employment record in recent years. However, it must be noted that Germany’s dazzling employment data is not without its hidden worries. For example, the unemployment and poverty issues and the decline in employment stability brought about by Schroder’s reforms have caused a lot of controversy.
  In addition, it is necessary to mention one point-originating from cultural traditions and social consensus, Germany has long pursued employment-oriented austerity wage policies.
  In the short to medium term, lower wages have reduced the employment costs of enterprises, and at the same time reduced the unit labor costs of products, and have won international competitive advantages for German products. Both aspects are beneficial to employment. However, in the long run, long-term low wages will curb domestic consumption and investment willingness, which is not conducive to economic growth. Moreover, within the framework of the European Monetary Union, although Germany has obtained great economic advantages with lower unit labor costs, the long-term continuous difference in unit labor costs will increase the uneven economic development of the member states, and it may even be possible. Endangering the development and survival of the currency union, the overall economic downturn and volatility in the Eurozone will in turn have a negative impact on Germany.
  Employment is a complex area that overlaps in many aspects such as economy, people’s livelihood, and society. It is also a link in a package of economic goals that are interrelated and constraining such as economic growth, currency stability, and balance of payments. Therefore, there is no perfect policy for all purposes. , Can only seek to form a relatively good feasible plan within the framework of a reasonable mechanism according to local conditions and optimizing the situation.

  Kluge, director of the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe, said in Copenhagen on November 4 that the spread of the new crown virus in 53 countries in the region is worrying, and data shows that the region has once again become the “epicenter” of the new crown epidemic. Kluger said that inadequate vaccination coverage in some countries and relaxation of social health control measures are the main reasons for the current intensification of the epidemic in the European region.
The epidemic in many countries has rebounded severely

  According to statistics from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, only 47% of the population in the European region are fully vaccinated, and the vaccination rate in two countries is less than 10%. In the past two weeks, seven countries in the European region have relaxed their control measures.
  According to statistics released by the WHO Regional Office for Europe on November 4, the region reported nearly 1.8 million new confirmed cases of new crown and 24,000 new deaths last week, an increase of 6% and 24,000 respectively compared with the previous week. 12%, accounting for 59% and 48% of new confirmed cases and deaths worldwide that week. The number of new confirmed cases reported in the European Region has increased by more than 55% in the past 4 weeks.
  Klug said: “Following this trend, another 500,000 new crown deaths may be added by February next year.” He said that the European region has once again become the “epicenter” of the new crown epidemic and is now at a critical moment of the epidemic’s rebound. The new crown vaccine is effective in preventing severe illness and death. Relevant agencies should make every effort to speed up the promotion of the vaccine and continue to take preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus.
  According to data released by the Robert Koch Institute, a German disease control agency, on November 5, the country has 37,120 new confirmed cases of new crowns compared with the previous day, a record high since the outbreak.
  The French public health department infectious disease expert Nicolas Metty told the media on November 4: “The incidence of the new crown in France has been rising for three consecutive weeks.”
  Since the Netherlands announced the lifting of most of the new crown prevention and control measures at the end of September, the China’s epidemic rebound gradually intensified. According to data released by the National Institute of Public Health and Environment of the Netherlands on November 2nd, in the week starting on October 27, there were 834 new hospitalized cases of new coronary disease in the country, an increase of 31% over the previous week; 140 new severe cases were added. This is an increase of 20% from the previous week.
  What is worrying is that the positive rate of the new coronavirus test and the risk of re-infection in countries in the European region have increased. Kluger said that 43 countries in the WHO European region may have hospital beds this winter. “Compared with countries with high COVID-19 vaccination rates, the hospitalization rate of COVID-19 patients in countries with low immunization rates has increased significantly and is climbing faster.”

On August 4, people were vaccinated at a new crown vaccination center near the Red Square in Moscow, the Russian capital. (Posted by Xinhua News Agency, photo by Yevgeny Sinitsyn)

  According to data from the Romanian Health Department on November 5, there were 3,176 new deaths from the new crown in the country in the past week, which is one of the countries with the highest death rate from the new crown in the European region. Romanian health experts believe that the high mortality rate is due to insufficient medicines, severe beds and shortages of medical staff.
  In the first week of November, Slovakia, with a population of just over 5 million, has continuously set new records for the number of confirmed cases of new crown. According to data from the health department website, the country’s COVID-19 test positive rate is 33.16%, that is, among the people who are tested for COVID-19 in the country, one out of every three people is positive. The daily average number of samples tested in Serbia is about 25,000, and the country’s positive rate of new coronavirus tests in the recent period is about 25%.
  According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics of the United Kingdom, since May 17, the risk of people in this country being infected again with the new crown virus has further increased, which is related to the delta strain gradually becoming the mainstream strain in its territory. Simon Clark, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, said that after a period of time after the completion of the new crown vaccination, immunity against the new crown virus gradually decreases, and the level of new crown infection in the elderly may rise, so it is very important to vaccinate booster shots.
Upgrade control to avoid “closing the city” again

  According to the WHO Regional Office for Europe, the COVID-19 vaccination progress of countries in the region is “at different stages.” Currently, only 8 regional countries have achieved 70% of the population’s full vaccination process.
  Professor Martin McKee of the University of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told reporters that all countries in the European region need to increase the rate of new crown vaccination, but the bigger problem is that many countries are not easy to get the new crown vaccine. In addition, it is necessary to avoid relying solely on vaccines, and a combination of high vaccination rates and adherence to prevention, especially measures such as ventilation and wearing masks, should be adopted.
  Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Project, called on European countries to adjust their response strategies in the coming months to avoid the collapse of their health systems. He proposed resuming anti-epidemic measures such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, and increasing the number of new coronavirus tests.
  Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced at a press conference held in The Hague on November 2 that from the 6th of this month, the implementation of the mandatory “mask order” will be expanded from public transportation to all indoor public places, including libraries, City halls, supermarkets, railway stations, etc.; the scope of use of the “New Crown Pass” has been expanded from restaurants, cafes, theaters and stadiums to museums, zoos, amusement parks, and indoor and outdoor sports venues. Rutte urged people to take personal protection, maintain social distancing, and work from home as much as possible to avoid entering crowded areas.
  The Associated Press reported that nearly 80% of the adult population in the Netherlands has completed the entire vaccination process. The Minister of Health of the Netherlands Hugo De Jonghe announced on November 2 that the new crown vaccine will be vaccinated from December for elderly people over 80 years old and front-line medical staff, and the population between 60 and 80 years old will be vaccinated from January next year.
  The Greek government announced on November 2 that it will implement stricter epidemic prevention measures for people who have not received the new crown vaccine.
  According to the Greek Minister of Health Thanos Plavris, since the 6th of this month, all those who have not been vaccinated have entered indoor public places such as banks, most shops, government buildings and hairdressers, as well as outdoor restaurants and cafes. At the time, a certificate of negative test for the new coronavirus must be presented; all employees in the public and private sectors who have not been vaccinated must be tested for the virus twice a week at their own expense.
  In order to control the spread of the epidemic, Russia has begun “paid leave” throughout the country. The country reported 1178 new deaths on November 2, which once again set a new record for the highest number of new deaths in a single day; more than 39,000 new confirmed cases in a single day. At present, Russia has accumulated more than 240,000 new crown deaths and nearly 8.6 million confirmed cases.
  The Government of the Russian Federation believes that the rapid spread of the new coronavirus and the increase in deaths are related to the low vaccination rate. Of the nearly 146 million people in Russia, less than 35% have completed the entire vaccination process.
  Russian President Vladimir Putin said on November 1 that the Russian epidemic is “very difficult” and may require military help, establish field hospitals, or provide support to civilian medical facilities.
  Belgian Minister of Health Frank Van den Brock told the media on November 5 that more “emergency measures” such as telecommuting, wearing masks, and reducing social activities should be adopted to slow the spread of the new crown epidemic.
  The Slovenian government announced new anti-epidemic measures on November 6, requiring that from the 8th, people over 12 years old must meet the following requirements when entering most public places: wear medical surgical masks or high-level “FFP2 standard” masks ; Fully vaccinated against the new crown vaccine, or recently tested negative for the new crown, or recovered from the new crown; show personal ID. Starting from November 15th, all students are required to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing three times a week.
  The number of confirmed cases of new crowns in Poland has been increasing recently. Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki convened a meeting of the government’s crisis management team on November 5. Polish Minister of Health Nederski said after the meeting that the government will strengthen the supervision of existing control measures, in particular, strictly check people’s use of public transportation tools and wearing masks when they are in closed places such as shopping malls.

  Improving immunity is inseparable from correct diet. Did you know that in daily life, some accustomed eating habits are quietly damaging your immunity.
High salt diet

  High-salt diet can inhibit the function of neutrophils in bone marrow, kidney, spleen, and blood, reduce the activity of neutrophils in the body, and impair the antibacterial defense function of neutrophils. In addition, the high-salt diet can inhibit the synthesis of aldosterone, and the glucocorticoid used to synthesize aldosterone accumulates in the body, thereby disrupting the normal rhythm of glucocorticoid and causing immune disorders.
High-fat, high-sugar diet

  A long-term high-fat, high-sugar diet can cause the immune system to become overactive, making the body’s defense function more sensitive and aggressive, and even if you change to a healthy diet in the future, it will be more difficult for the immune system to restore calm. A high-fat, high-sugar diet can lead to the proliferation and maturation of immune cells, thereby triggering an inflammatory response.

Low protein diet

  Protein is the material basis of life. If long-term protein intake is insufficient, it will have an impact on all aspects of the body. These effects include decreased physical fitness, energy, and vitality, easy fatigue, decreased endurance, low immunity, easy infection, difficult wound healing, easy anemia, edema, premature aging, and difficulty concentrating.
High protein diet

  Long-term high-protein diet also has many negative effects on the human body. Long-term high-protein diet will not only increase the risk of diabetes, increase the burden on the kidneys, affect calcium metabolism, promote the production of urinary stones, and accelerate human aging, but also reduce the body’s immune function. Therefore, high-protein foods should be eaten, but the proportion of protein in the overall diet should be balanced, not just tonic.
Excessive drinking

  Long-term excessive drinking will affect the body’s normal metabolism, damage the liver, and consume a large amount of vitamin B in the body. If the human body lacks vitamin B, it will affect the production of white blood cells and antibodies, leading to a decline in immunity.
Eat large amounts of canned food

  Although the canned food tastes good, it has been disinfected during processing, and the canned food is also added with chemical agents that extend the shelf life. After these chemical agents enter the body in large quantities, they can cause harm to the body and reduce the body’s immunity.
Excessive coffee

  Drinking coffee in moderation is not harmful to the body, but too much coffee is not enough. If you consume too much coffee, it will affect sleep and lead to a decline in immunity. Therefore, it is best to drink coffee 6 hours before going to bed to avoid disturbing sleep.
Drink less water

  Water is the source of life, 70% of our body is water. If the body is short of water for a long time, it will affect the normal circulation of the blood, causing the blood to become thicker and thicker, which will affect the health of the body, and even cause a large amount of toxins to accumulate in the body and cause other diseases.
Nutritional imbalance

  People who are picky eaters and partial eclipses for a long time are likely to reduce their immunity due to incomplete nutritional intake, and then cause a series of diseases.