März 2010

IZA Policy Paper No. 15: Agenda 2020: Strategies to Achieve Full Employment in Germany

This strategy paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) shows ways in which Germany once more can attain full employment in the coming decade. Much of what the previous government's "Agenda 2010" has put into motion has clearly steered labor market development in the right direction. The reforms are one of the main reasons why Germany has been more resistant to the recent financial and economic crisis than other countries. While these achievements should not be called into question, further action is necessary. The IZA concept includes the following elements: (1) Education reform: Early childhood education must be improved. Social background should no longer determine future career prospects. More independence and competition between schools and universities would improve the quality of education. Selection of students into different secondary school tracks should occur at a higher age. The dual system of apprenticeship training could be shortened. College tuition fees could be replaced by a graduate tax. (2) Welfare state reform: A consistent implementation of the principle of reciprocity would create additional employment incentives and make working for a living worthwhile again even for the low-skilled. Workfare is socially just and promotes independence rather than producing dependency. Child benefits should be granted primarily as vouchers. (3) Job placement reform: The problem groups of the labor market need one-stop support tailored to their individual needs as soon as they become unemployed. IZA proposes the creation of job centers that act independently from local and federal authorities in order to avoid the organizational maze of unclear responsibilities. (4) Immigration policy reform: Germany needs high-skilled immigrants to cope with demographic change and skilled labor shortages. A selection system for permanent immigrants and a market-based solution for temporary immigrants would substantially increase the economic benefits of immigration and create additional momentum for the realization of full employment.