Burgeoning bureaucracy

A Legalized Form of Torture

The introduction of a minimum wage to help low-paid workers has given employers a paperwork headache.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Increasing bureaucracy is stifling German businesses.

  • Facts


    • Germany introduced a minimum wage of €8.50 on January 1, 2015.
    • The government has a “one in, one out” policy on new laws to tackle bureaucracy.
    • Critics say more paperwork is being created, not less.
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No legislative period passes without an effort to cut bureaucracy. And every government, no matter what its make-up, promises heaven and earth to voters and businesses.

Think back to Germany in the 1990s. All we heard about were the advantages of a “lean state.” The bloated apparatus of government would be trimmed down. Yet more than 15 years later, little has changed.

At the moment, the government, a coalition of the conservative Christian Democrats and the left-leaning Social Democrats, is mightily proud of its “one in, one out” rule. This is supposed to mean that for every new law enacted, another must be dropped.

But businesses can forget about the new wage law, which has introduced a basic minimum wage of €8.50, leading to another law being dropped. Under federal labor minister Andrea Nahles, bureaucracy is a one-way street on which there is only “one in.”

Taxi firms, hairdressers and restaurant owners are the victims as they must now battle through the most paperwork. Although many employer complaints may be exaggerated, the number of voices in the ruling CDU demanding improvements in the form-filling is growing.

The country is at a loss while the labor minister does nothing but stand by and watch. Meanwhile, the implementation of the minimum wage is just another example of the state patronizing employers.

The country is at a loss while federal minister of labor does nothing but stand and watch.

The bureaucratic failings are not limited to labor laws. It’s a given that tax returns will never be so simple that they can be worked out on a napkin, but the government has shelved the idea of simplifying taxes, despite the fact it should be one of the major tasks government should try to accomplish.

And why drivers can’t register their car online, for example, remains a mystery known only to Germany’s state governments. Anyone who has wasted a lifetime standing in long lines at registration offices will surely express their support. There is a never-ending and terrible state of affairs challenging German citizens.

The explanation for why the state constantly grows fatter is simple. The more new civil servants there are, the more laws are generated. The government has demonstrated that nowhere is the state more industrious than when it’s making the apparatus of government more bloated.

The coalition could tackle reform now, but only if it really wanted to.


To contact the author: sigmund@handelsblatt.com

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