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German Labour minister proud of Merkel's legacy

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German Labour minister proud of Merkel's legacy

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The German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Ursula von der Leyen is considered a serious rival to Angela Merkel inside the conservative CDU. Von der Leyen is well known for her progressive views on social issues, such as a quota for women in top jobs.

As the campaign gets underway for the September elections she is at pains to praise the legacy of the current government.

The mother of seven was born into a political family and practiced medicine before taking on her current post.

She spoke to euronews reporter Kirsten Ripper:

“You are the Labour Minister of a country with a jobless rate that is so low that it is the envy of many in Europe. Youth unemployment is currently at eight percent, the lowest in the EU. Do you encourage young people from crisis hit countries to come to Germany?”

Ursula von der Leyen
German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs:

“I recommend people in Europe look where the jobs are. In the north of Europe, Germany, but also Austria and the Dutch have jobs on offer – one million in Germany, 33.000 apprenticeships are not filled at the moment. And if in other parts of Europe young people are looking for jobs, this is my answer. But it is not the only answer, we must take steps in southern Europe to promote growth, we must also use the freedom of movement within the European market, this is important we have fought for it for a long time. This should be offered to young people.”

euronews:

“That takes the wind out of the sails of your critics who say that there is a brain drain away from the crisis hit countries? “

Ursula von der Leyen:

“I think that in a situation where six million young people in Europe are desperately looking for a job or training we should offer different answers to provide a perspective. And if there are jobs going, it is good and right that they can learn the skills. One day they will then return to their countries or go somewhere else inside Europe. I prefer that these young people get a job in Europe so that they do not leave Europe and move to other continents.”

euronews:

“During the last few months, many articles have been published about poverty in Germany – also the poverty of people in work. What do you think about a minimum wage and about improved social benefits?”

Ursula von der Leyen:

“Concerning the minimum wage, we have 12 branches with a minimum wage and have a good experience with that. Traditionally in Germany the social partner: unions and employers discuss all labour agreements – there are 65.000 currently in Germany. They have the knowledge about the right balance for a minimum wage that is fair to workers , but does not destroy jobs.”

euronews:

“And social benefits? The Hartz IV?”

Ursula von der Leyen:

“Hartz IV in Germany means that people who are jobless and in need are assured of a minimum income. But the important step is to provide jobs so they can work and get out of Hartz IV, earn their own living, which is more and more possible in Germany thanks to the healthy economic situation. The number of jobless is clearly going down. That is why it would not be clever to raise Hartz IV because you take away the incentive to work, to earn your own living.”

euronews:

“You are engaged with women’s issues in Germany. How do you see the future quota for women in top jobs?”

Ursula von der Leyen:

“Now is the time where we say that women are not only a large part of the workforce, but more are needed especially at the top. This is the meaning of “quota for women” in big firms. We see that in Germany the medium-seized businesses already have 30 percent of women in leading positions, but in big businesses, there are very few women on the board of directors. And that’s why we are having a discussion in Germany and this must go faster. I think that industry understands best when you put in place timetables or a special framework. I think by 2020, 30 per cent of boardroom places should be occupied by women.
We know from studies that businesses have better results when men and women are at the top – not because women are better, but because they react differently than men and have a broader view on the risks and also on opportunities. This more modern line-up should be achieved in Germany.”

euronews:

“And a personal question that a female Spanish colleague has asked me to put to you… you have seven children and take care of your sick father how do you balance career and family?”

Ursula von der Leyen:

“There were not seven children in the beginning, but this is a long way in my life with small children – firstly as a young doctor I had the experiences that many young couples have. How difficult it is to find childcare, to arrange flexible working hours with your employers. This is, according to me, is most important at the start.
The second component is that my husband as the father of the children has asked for the right to spend time with his children and I think that mothers should ask for the same right. So I hope that one day it will not be just women who are asked how they manage to balance jobs and family, but young couples, that is fathers and mothers are given a frame in which they can realise this difficult task, the best that can be realised in Europe: say YES to children.”

euronews:

And what about the problem of the low birthrate in Germany:?

Ursula von der Leyen:

“Compared with industrialised countries we see that in countries with well educated young people – thank God this is the case in Germany – more children are born when work and family are reconciled for fathers and mothers. This gives confidence to have a second or third child. Germany that comes from a long tradition where work and family are unreconciled but the changes of the last few years have been good. We also see that the drop in birthrate has been stopped, but it takes a long time with demographically to achieve a turn-around.”

euronews:

“You are the strong woman beside the chancellor, a woman with a vision and resoluteness, as Nikolaus Blome has called Angela Merkel “the artist of hesitation”. Would you be a better chancellor?”

Ursula von der Leyen:

“No way, I think that every generation has its chancellor. My generation is especially well represented: Angela Merkel she is the chancellor of this country. Just Iook how excellent she is. She has guided this country through difficult times – the current economic crises and now the euro crisis -, we can see we are lucky to have somebody at the top who is trustworthy and operates sustainable politics.”

euronews:

“ And you do not have a problem to campaign intensively for the CDU?”

Ursula von der Leyen:

“On the contrary. This is my party. I think there are ideas to be disputed and I do that in an engaged way.”

euronews:
“And you are fighting for the right of adoption for same-sex couples?”

Ursula von der Leyen:

“We have a debate that will that will surely take place in autumn. For the moment there are other priorities.”