It used to be that full-time employment and job security were givens in Germany. But a growing number of exceptions to these rules are now turning the old system on its graying, stubborn head. Well, that’s not quite right. This old way of doing things, with über-regulation, high costs and stifling labor laws, is actually still alive and well. It’s just that the number of employees who still fall into this category is dwindling from day to day and the whole concept appears to be on the road to extinction.

Those who fall out of this cushy old-fashioned hammock now land in a parallel “atypical” labor system/universe. Its inhabitants are extremely flexible and mobile workers (they have to be) who are desperately searching for the permanent, full-time work they, or better, their parents once knew. But fewer and fewer of these growing masses will ever be offered a permanent position, their employers preferring the flexibility and lower costs that come along with temporary contracts.

But how can they get away with this, you ask? Because the employers hiring these new worker drones no longer want to pay the higher wages and Abgaben (payroll deductions) that the old system demands. So there we have it; a de facto Zwei-Klassen-System (two class system) in a country that has an allergic reaction to anything that implies class (see the “underclass” debate - which actually brings us up/down to three classes).

So what is the German government going to do about all of this? That’s hard to say. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be an exception to the rule.

Come visit me at Observing Hermann…

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