Flashing headlights, pressing the gas pedal: for many years the German economy was in a fast lane. Today, however, leisurely convoy riding prevails.
When determining the position, the emphasis is on “status”, the navigation system of an industrialized country Germany shows only distant goals: Effective measures against the climate crisis? Mobility return? Speed of digitization? We are nowhere in the lead. At best, the taillights of the riders who left us are still visible.
Too pessimistic picture? Unlikely. With almost no innovation and no patents, we achieve our goal without raw materials and components that we have to import and therefore depend on others. At the same time, we have the luxury of ignoring a critical resource that is plentiful: people who live in the shadow of the economy and society.
For the most part, we see them only as a problem, more precisely: we are arguing about the amount of their maintenance or financing. Otherwise, we leave them at the side of the road like hitchhikers in need.
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Anyone who takes the term “entrepreneur” seriously must urgently abandon this view. Anyone who thinks that against the background of the lack of qualified employees it is possible to conveniently buy younger staff and “a la carte” is wrong. We need to make sure “our” people match “us” – keyword retraining, retraining, training and further education, staff development, talent promotion.
Companies and their employees are now in a constant process of change. It requires our leadership, our investments and our creativity. If we ignore this, it would be better if we didn’t want to be entrepreneurs.
Get out of your comfort zone
What concerns the economy also applies to society when dealing with those who, for whatever reason, are going through difficult times. To properly activate, for example, unemployment benefit II, we must say goodbye to the “comfort zone D” – for example, “beautify” our stay in the shade with financial support and social benefits. The associated administrative effort is enormous, and we also obscure the perception that the light at the end of the tunnel is worth reaching for yourself.
We also need to say goodbye to our impatience to immediately and inexorably diminish added value as people reach the welfare threshold thanks to their performance: taxes and duties can become an “entry fee” if they do not drop immediately once again cast a shadow.
We must also give up our ignorant way of dealing with the individual abilities of migrants. We’ve learned almost nothing since the first ‘guest’ recruitment contract in 1955. This group in particular has shown great will and strength to gain a foothold in their new home and to secure their existence. From the Swabians of Banata to the founders of Biontech of Turkish origin, history is full of examples of successful integration. Why? Because they have been given the freedom to release their powers.
We should also put behind us helpless attempts to create social balance through transfer payments. Child Benefit alone does not ensure participation in a good school system, it takes the “big cutlery” from early childhood assistance to help in real life. As a society, we can no longer afford to be as carefree as we used to be with our most precious resource.
Taxes and duties are too high
The current tax and customs system makes it difficult for firms to attract unskilled or low skilled people. If you’ve already done so, you usually look at frustrated faces after your first salary, because in the end, deductions primarily signal: despite your new job, persistent dependence on the welfare system.
The humiliating experience of having to “go back to the office” to avoid getting into financial trouble is completely demotivating. No boss and no employment contract can absorb it. And certainly not an internal incentive program.
Staff housing has long been an example of how bureaucracy prevents people from shading into daylight. Until early 2020, rentals that were clearly below the local average were considered a cash benefit – and were taxable. On the one hand, it thwarted the intentions of companies that wanted to invest their money in the attractiveness of the employer. At the same time, the opportunity to create an inexpensive living space close to the workplace in expensive metropolitan areas was lost.
Meanwhile, the legislator noticed this contradiction and acted: rents are now accepted as long as they are not lower than two-thirds of the comparable rent. It sounds social at first, but ultimately it isn’t. It would be social to put no limits. If only because the prices in metropolises are completely different than in more remote regions. Here and there, companies need affordable housing to attract workers.
Work and performance need to be reassessed
From a business and economic point of view, setting a personal development course at an early stage is as sensible as it is goal-oriented. Companies have learned that human resources are not managed and rewarded, but designed and developed. This approach is especially important where foundations are being laid – in early childhood education and training.
In some areas of our society, such support is an unimaginable luxury that cannot even begin with support payments such as Child Benefit. People with a migrant background, in particular, need thoughtful, holistic offers and support so that language learning also enables them to discover their own skills and recognize individual perspectives. Participation and promotion begin long before the first employment contract.
All this shows that business-as-usual strategies seem outdated in the current German localization scenario, characterized by a lack of skilled workers and a dependence on raw materials. Rather, it’s time for our location and our economic system to re-evaluate work and performance – especially for simple jobs.
If we ignore this, we will not only lose the opportunity to return to the quick lane in the global race. Then we’re stuck in the emergency bay. So let’s take the hitchhikers we passed without paying attention so far. Let’s activate their skills, energy and ideas. This could lead to an economic miracle.
Author: Eberhard Sasse is on the board of Dr. The Sasse group, whose spectrum ranges from facility management to cleaning of buildings.
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