GeorgCremer is a habilitated economist and was General Secretary of the German Caritas Association until mid-2017. He is the author of several books about the social situation in Germany. Most recently, CH Beck published: "Germany is fairer than we think.
ZEIT ONLINE: The SPD has decided on a new social policy program at its party congress. The title reads: "Work, solidarity, humanity - a new welfare state for a new era." Mr. Cremer, do we need a new welfare state in Germany?
Georg Cremer: Well, yes. The welfare state must be constantly adapted to a changing economic and social reality. The party congress of the SPD includes many projects, including those that are most urgent, such as the expansion of further education or the social protection of the self-employed. However, this does not result in a new welfare state. Anyone who promises such things generates expectations that can not be fulfilled.
ZEIT ONLINE: Maybe we go through some of the suggestions. The SPD wants to raise the minimum wage to twelve euros. Boris Johnson is calling for similar things in the UK, and he's anything but a leftist.
Cremer: The SPD wants in perspective twelve euros - not now and immediately. The crucial question for me is the institutional framework in which this should happen. It is wise that the increase in the minimum wage will be decided by a commission of employers and trade unions - with scientific support. If the minimum wage is determined by the policy, however, it will come to a race for the highest proposal. Only a minimum wage that does not endanger employment is socially acceptable.
ZEIT ONLINE: Economists have always said that. So far there has been no significant job cuts in Germany. Where is the limit for you?
Cremer: We have introduced the minimum wage in a long-lasting boom in the labor market. You have to take that into account.
ZEIT ONLINE: Twelve euros would be too much for you?
Cremer: I would advise against a sudden increase to twelve euros. If, however, the minimum pay commission then comes up with this amount in several steps and with careful attention to the effects that are shown on the labor market, why not?
ZEIT ONLINE: The SPD also wants to strengthen the collective bargaining. Tariff-bound corporate roles should also be better for tax purposes.
We continue to have a functioning and well-developed welfare state. The Social Democrats should be more proud of what they have done for this welfare state. Georg Cremer
Cremer: It is important and right to strengthen collective bargaining coverage. Significant parts of the growing service sector are not collectively bound. In order to change that, more workers must also organize themselves. Politicians can not prescribe that.
ZEIT ONLINE: The SPD claims in its paper that the social state has been permanently weakened in the past decades and therefore its function of social equality can do less and less. Would Siedem agree?
Cremer: That's the sentence in the whole document that annoyed me the most. He just is not right. We continue to have a functioning and well-developed welfare state. The Social Democrats should be more proud of what they have done for this welfare state.
ZEIT ONLINE: What do you mean?
Cremer: The health system is not worse than it used to be, it treats many diseases with increasing effort and high success. The kindergartens have been massively expanded, there are significant improvements in the aid for the disabled. The nursing infrastructure has been continually expanded. Of course that does not mean that there is nothing left to do now. But the lament that the state has withdrawn from social responsibility is wrong. The SPD thus discredits its own policy.