Germany’s employment miracle of recent years is something to be marveled at, but the agency that has been responsible for it is still a mess.
Around the world, the labor and welfare reforms undertaken by Germany more than a decade ago are considered to have played a crucial role in getting Europe’s largest economy going again.
Part of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Agenda 2010 reform package, the Hartz measures, modernized Germany’s Federal Labor Agency with the intention of making the unemployed less reliant on benefits and more responsible for finding work.
And at first glance, it worked splendidly: A decade ago, some five million people were jobless, today fewer than three million are. The country’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the European Union at 4.8 percent, its lowest level since Germany’s unification in 1991.
But these figures mask the Labor Agency’s poor performance. Germany’s largest bureaucracy seems to be a bottomless pit that is more a beneficiary of the booming economy than an institution working to make out improvements.
Even streamlining its own internal structures has stalled: Although the number of unemployed has dropped dramatically over the years, there are actually more people working at the Labor Agency today than a decade ago.
“Of course, we are adjusting to the changes on the labor market,” the labor agency’s boss Heinrich Alt told Handelsblatt.
But that’s a slow – an extremely slow – process. The authority now wants to shed 17,000 positions out of a total of 100,000 by 2019.