The Silent Catastrophe
By Eckart Spoo
[This article originally published in: Ossietzky 17/2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://sopos.org/aufsaetze/3f523829d2f9e/1.phtml.]
The Federal German Office of Statistics announces "a new record". In the second quarter when it is warm, the trees are cut down, employment usually increases and politicians rejoice about the upswing, employment rapidly fell in 2003 compared to 2002 as never before in united Germany: 646,000 jobs were eliminated. This means, 646,000 persons received lower wages or no wages at all. The family members, altogether more than a million people, were hit hard. Demand on the domestic market fell correspondingly. Like the wage sum, the revenue for social security also falls. Less income tax flows to the state.
The capital side is the beneficiary. Capital pays less wages and taxes. This is not the only relief for capital. With constantly new "reforms", politicians provide additional relief by freeing capital from tax duties and obligating wage earners to accept more life risks themselves and hand over a growing part of their wages to private insurance companies.
The capital side doesn't complain about the job cuts. Why should it complain when it benefits? Capital cancels jobs and isn't ashamed about these cancellations. Why should it be ashamed since it benefits?
When a manager eliminates jobs, he is regarded as a good manager. The more positions he cuts, the higher his reputation and his income. He receives teaching assignments, titles and appointments in governmental advisory groups.
Ministers, district administrators and mayors who eliminate as many governmental jobs as possible (in kindergartens, schools, universities, theaters, libraries and so forth) are successful politicians. The whole society competes for "new records" in job cuts.
The remaining employees earn less, not more, on the average since they are increasingly employed in low-wage jobs. Often they work below the standard rate on individual contracts and renounced everything ever gained by unions. Therefore much less money flows into the social system.
Individuals still say technical progress requiring less and less living labor per product must benefit everyone - through reduction of working hours and distribution of wealth. However they have been ignored for a long time in the media. On the contrary, politicians, journalists and professors urge extending working hours: longer weekly working hours, fewer holidays and later pension age. Thus job cuts are still accelerating.
The upswing will come some time or other. Will it come next spring or next year? We should only keep quiet.