Five million is the true number of people out of work in Germany, according to the latest figures from the Federal Labour Office. The reason, in January new rules were brought in which mean that people who are receiving welfare benefits have to register as jobless in order to continue getting those payments. So, the total last month increased by 573,000, to 5.04 million.
But even before the changes, German unemployment had risen for the last 11 months, as companies moved jobs to countries with lower labour costs and stopped hiring due to low domestic demand for goods. The overall 12.1% jobless rate includes a level of 20.5% in the former Communist East Germany. The government wants to get more people into work by cutting the benefits of welfare recipients if they reject job offers. Economics and Labour Minister Wolfgang Clement said the new total represents “five million reasons for labour reform and five million reasons for us all to work together in the fight against unemployment.”
But given the stagnant state of Europe’s largest economy, those on the dole are not optimistic. One jobseeker, a former social worker in the east German employment blackspot of Leipzig, said: “At the moment, the situation is very bad. I might have to go back to college for two or three years and retrain, but would I even find work after that? It’s anybody’s guess.” Next month’s unemployment total is likely to even higher. Another 70,000 social-welfare recipients have yet to be included in the statistics.