Germany

How Germany Beats The Youth Unemployment Trap

The "dual" vocational training system used to be derided as limiting university degrees. Now it is being lauded in the U.S., and exported to struggling southern European countries.

Youth unemployment in Germany is below 8%
Youth unemployment in Germany is below 8%
Stefan von Borstel

-Analysis-

BERLIN - Over five and a half million young Europeans are without jobs. In the crisis countries in southern Europe, a generation is coming of age with few prospects: one in two Spaniards and Greeks under 25 are unemployed, and it's one in three in Italy and Portugal.

To them, Germany must look like an island of the blessed: youth unemployment here is below 8%. In no other of the 27 EU member states is it this low. Only Austria is anywhere close (8.9%).

How do they do it, our European neighbors ask – and even make pilgrimages to Germany to research the phenomenon. What they discover is our dual vocational training system – going to school (theory) and working (practice) simultaneously rather than consecutively. For most Europeans, that’s new: learning and working, instead of learning then working.

The European Commission has praised the German model as a "guarantee against youth unemployment and shortage of skilled labor." Even U. S. President Barack Obama praised the German model in his 2013 State of the Union address: “Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they're ready for a job."

For a long time, other countries criticized Germany for this approach – in fact, the OECD regularly upbraided us for having too few university graduates. For many international education experts, a university education -- bachelor or master’s degree, doctorate -- is the measure of all things. German “Meister” (master) certification is seen as rather exotic.

Practical training is considered to be notches below academic training. Equating an apprenticeship diploma with a high school degree, considering master certification to be on a par with a bachelor’s degree, is inconceivable for many Europeans. But slowly, word is getting around that German industry’s ability to innovate -- and indeed its success as measured by the success of its products worldwide -- might have something to do with the sound training German workers receive.

Even within Germany there are critics of the dual system. It has been said that the training is too specialized, too tailored to the specific needs of certain industries, and that the number of different specialties (more than 300) that kids can train for is way too high. Doubts have also been expressed as to whether dual-system qualifications can keep up with fast-changing economic times in our Internet era.

Export hit

The system came under a lot of pressure about a decade ago when there was mass unemployment in Germany, and tens of thousands of young people were unable to get apprenticeships. In 2004, the red-green (Social Democrat/Green Party) government was even pushing for a training levy to force the economy to create more apprenticeships.

But then in June 2004, the German government joined with employers and business associations in pushing through the national Vocational and Educational Training Pact, which helped reverse the situation: now, supply is greater than demand.

The global economic crisis has turned the German model into an export hit. Germany has signed a training cooperation deal with six EU countries, and German companies are playing a pioneering role by training staffers in their subsidiaries abroad according to the German model.

Expectations are high – also for the Germans. Germany doesn’t only want to export a winning system, it’s hoping for dynamic, motivated southern Europeans to occupy all the apprenticeship slots that aren’t presently being filled – and who once they’ve got their qualification don’t head back home but stay in Germany to fill out the growing shortage of skilled workers.

Skeptics are quick to point out problems, like language barriers, and say they doubt whether migrants can play a determining role in alleviating the shortage of apprentices in Germany.

And it is true that the time-frame may not be ideal, as the German system is strongly dependent on the economy. The market, not education experts, is ultimately what determines the number of apprenticeships available. It is companies that decide how many positions requiring which qualifications they will need in the future; that is the basis for the number of apprenticeship positions they open up.

So the big advantage of the German vocational training approach is also its biggest drawback. The system is contingent on the economy – and in bad times, such as the crisis countries in Europe are currently experiencing, demand for apprentices will be lower.

Open arms

That southern Europeans are looking for an answer in the dual system shows how desperate they are. They not only lack companies willing to create apprenticeship positions, and patient “masters” happy to pass on their know-how to “their” apprentices, but also the institutions, and close-knit cooperation that is required between employers, politicians, unions and other players to implement the dual training system successfully.

Even in Germany, where this collaboration is so well established, the system is still not without its own setbacks, such as the conflict over the Training Pact and the resistance from the unions.

So southern Europeans adopting the German system have undertaken something highly ambitious. But it’s better to push for courageous structural reform rather than opt for the simpler solution of giving young unemployed people senseless occupational training just to keep them busy -- and quiet. That deserves our support. As do young southern Europeans who are leaving home to come to Germany to find a job or receive vocational training. We should welcome them with open arms.

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never.

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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