Germany elections: Merkel years saw blossoming economy, widening inequality
As her 16-year tenure ends with the German general elections on Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel has reaped the rewards of her predecessor’s Agenda 2010 economic reforms – overseeing years of solid growth and low unemployment. But critics decry widened inequality. FRANCE 24 reports from Berlin.
Before Merkel unseated him in the 2005 general elections, her Social Democrat predecessor Gerhard Schroeder divided German public opinion with the Agenda 2010 economic reform packages, which cut both taxes and the welfare system.
International observers and voices on the German right credit this policy package with restoring the country’s economic dynamism. The German unemployment rate has halved to near full employment since Merkel took office.
“We’re at full capacity,” said Gabriele Kostner, CEO of Muller-Zeiner Industrieverpackungen, a small shipping supply manufacturer in Berlin.
“Our exports have developed well these past years,” continued Kostner, a member of Merkel’s conservative CDU party. “Mrs Merkel is the number one female politician in the world. And her good reputation has rubbed off on our products.”
But low salaries in sectors like health and digital services have widened inequality, with half of the population possessing 99.5 percent of German wealth.
A fifth of workers only have temporary jobs, while 13 million Germans including three million children are classed as living in poverty.
“Our children are left by the wayside and the pandemic has really made that obvious,” said Bernd Siggelkow, founder of Arche, an NGO dedicated to fighting child poverty which helps some 7000 children in 20 German cities. “They have financial but also educational problems. When the parents don't have a good education, they can't help their kids.”
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