German industry asks to recover the 42-hour work week to alleviate the shortage of workers

Rosalia SanchezCONTINUE
Updated: 06/23/2022 1:17 p.m.
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The president of German industry, Siegfried Russwurm, has just reopened the debate on the involution of the welfare state by being in favor of increasing the working day as a means of remedying the growing shortage of workers. "Personally, I have great sympathy for an optional increase in weekly working hours, of course with full salary compensation," said the president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). "A 42-hour week would certainly be easier to implement than a general introduction of retirement pensions at 70," he added.

The most angry reaction, as could be expected, has been that of the Die Linke (The Left) party. "42-hour week, retirement at 70: this is a class struggle from above," Dietmar Bartsch, leader of the parliamentary group, has settled, "endangers the cohesion of the country and will find opposition from the unions."

In the discussion about the long-term decrease in income that pension insurance will provide to retirees, economic researcher Michael Hüther has also spoken out in favor of a 42-hour week as a standard working day.

In contrast, the director of the employer-oriented German Institute for Economics (IW) considers that raising the retirement age as a means of balancing the pension insurance system would be politically more difficult to implement. In any case, the debate is served. Axel Gedaschko says that he worries when he sees that the baby boomer generation is going bald. "It is the symptom of the rupture in the German labor market", the president of the Central Association of the Housing Industry (GdW) explains his anxiety "after them there is no replacement and, from the current point of view, it is very It is unlikely that we will be able to count on the workforce.”

The life of many companies depends on it, as does German economic growth, including the ability of the government to carry out its policies. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised the construction of 400,000 new homes a year, in addition to copious aid for the renovation of old buildings, as measures to end the problem of housing shortages and to definitively improve the quality of thermal insulation of the German park of housing, necessary to meet the objectives of climate protection.

workers are missing

But workers are scarce and the sector does not see itself capable of covering those objectives. "No matter how many subsidies they offer, nothing can be done if there are no workers to lay bricks," complains Gedaschko. The problem also affects other sectors. The
air transport has lost 4.1% of its employment
during the pandemic that is now impossible to recover. 15% of the positions of specialists in aviation services, essential to operate airports, continue to be vacant.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing has announced a plan to hire 2,000 workers in Turkey, but assumes it will not be enough. "Starting summer vacation with this figured out is an unrealistic hope," he admitted. "In the medium term, the sector must once again become more attractive as an employer, offer security and a professional career, otherwise qualified workers will opt for other countries."

"After the pandemic, customers want to go out to eat, to enjoy the gastronomic offer, and it is very frustrating for SMEs in the sector not to be able to meet that demand due to lack of staff," says the president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Jürgen Grenz, who points out that right now there are three times more jobs advertised than before the pandemic and that in March 63% fewer jobs subject to listing were recorded in the sector compared to March 2019. As patch Ukrainian refugees have arrived. More than 59,000 Ukrainians already work with a permanent contract and from the ECB Vasco Botelho calculates that the contribution to Europe of labor due to the war in Ukraine will amount to 1.3 million workers.

But in Germany alone, according to the Employment Research Institute, there is a deficit of 1.74 million workers. And if until now the shortage affected the most qualified positions, the pandemic has left a panorama in which the so-called "grey collar" sectors, as opposed to white collar, are the new black hole for economic objectives. However, the analyst Richard David Precht considers that this mismatch "is part of the transition from the labor society to the knowledge society" and that an increase in the working day does not make sense in this context. “This setback is unthinkable, Saturday belongs to us and we will never give it up again”, assures Anja Piel, from the Federation of Trade Unions, “longer working hours or delayed retirement are only cheap pseudo-solutions that do not go to the core of the problem.

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