EUR 9.85, EUR 8.50

9.85 euros is what a liter of slowly warming beer cost at the 2013 Oktoberfest in Bavaria (6 million visitors were expected this year). 8.50 euros is the national statutory minimum wage the S.P.D. party promised to introduce in its recent election campaign. Looking on the bright side, this labor breakthrough is what the S.P.D. is now hoping to permanently achieve by agreeing to an identity-destroying grosse Koalition with the C.D.U./C.S.U.

Minimum wages in Germany are negotiated individually by each union though not for all job types. Notoriously, German hairdressers often work so many hours that their per-hour earnings are shockingly low. So do many cleaners, cooks, florists, healthcaregivers, waitstaff and especially also meatpacking industry workers whose jobs are subcontracted by subcontractors. ZDF heute journal reported on 17 Oct 2013 that 5 million Germans earn less than the proposed minimum wage, one in four workers in the former East Germany.

In the fight to prevent a national minimum wage, employers and their economists and their other academics and conservative politicians have made predictions about the damage a minimum wage would cause. In the fight to introduce a national minimum wage, proponents have discussed how it would ease strains on a welfare state’s social services, which have had to cover for employers of the working poor. In a country that keeps good records such as Germany it will be interesting to be able to measure the results against the predictions, and to compare them to results from other countries that introduced minimum wages such as Britain (with success) and Poland (results middling but the wage may have been set too low to do much, at 2 euros/hour). If it happens, the German minimum wage will be an ongoing experiment certainly subject to future negotiation and adjustments.

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