Japan on the Rhine
February 18, 2003
"Germany's long slide into becoming Japan on the Rhine" -- with stiflingly high taxes, glacially slow growth and labor rigidities that kill chances to reduce unemployment -- is likely to continue, say observers.
Reformers have long had remedies for Germany's structural rigidities. Among them:
- Relax job-protection laws -- especially for small companies and older workers -- to encourage hiring and stop the decline in workforce participation by people over 55.
- Make it easier for individual companies to opt out of collective bargaining agreements, giving relief to struggling companies that can't pay the prevailing wage.
- Allow stores to stay open whenever they like, at least in downtown areas; this would create jobs, help stimulate consumption and make everyday life easier.
- Limit the ability of workers' councils to block or delay company plans, allowing companies to move more quickly and grow more competitive.
Germany's problems affect more than the 82.5 million Germans. As Europe's largest and richest nation and steward for the euro, Germany's failures radiate across the Continent, say critics.
Source: Jack Ewing, "The Decline of Germany," Business Week, February 17, 2003.
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