ZEIT ONLINE has made all speeches of the German Bundestag searchable. They show which topics dominated the debates and how much the language in the Bundestag has changed.
Poor people do not have a lobby? No, that's not true, at least not for the German Bundestag. It is like scolded on the policy and politicians these days, there is an urgent need to defend them once. A glance at the ZEIT ONLINE # federal words proves that the members of the Bundestag have always worried a lot about the unemployed and unemployed, that they have constantly debated the topic.
Whenever the unemployment rate has risen in the country over the past 70 years, the proportion of speakers in the Bundestag has also risen. The parliamentarians are obviously worried about those who release the labor market - to use one of the euphemisms that people like to sack.
However, the word frequency in the parliamentary protocols also shows that this concern is not entirely in proportion to the number of unemployed. In the perception of distress, it seems, there are gradations.
Three times in its history, the Federal Republic experienced an unemployment rate that reached the record level of eleven percent. The first time shortly after its founding. The land was destroyed, reconstruction with the help of the Marshall Plan had just begun. The statistics in 1950 totaled 1.9 million unemployed - that corresponded to eleven percent of the labor force.
For the second time, the unemployment rate reached the 11 percent mark in 1997. Around 3.6 million people were unemployed at the time. The mark was exceeded for the third time in 2005. This year, the number of unemployed even reached 4.9 million people, a high before and after that. If only East Germany is considered, where many people lost their jobs after the fall of the Wall, the unemployment rate even showed an even higher peak value, amounting to almost 18 percent in relation to all economically active persons.
Unemployment in the Bundestag was discussed much more frequently in all three crisis periods than in other years and was the subject of many parliamentary speeches. But surprisingly, the most common use of the (compounded) terms unemployment, unemployed and unemployed in a very different year: 1985. As the unemployment rate in West Germany was just under eight percent, about two million people were jobless.
The beginning of the eighties brought a hard break for the Federal Republic. Until then, the country had only ever become richer. The first oil crisis in the 1970s had been a shock, the second oil crisis in 1982/83 increased the fear of descent and poverty. In addition, social spending was cut, taxes increased. After decades of growing prosperity, many people worried for the first time that things would not go on forever. For the first time since the founding of the Federal Republic, the unemployment rate in 1985 also reached a value that reminded of the difficult beginnings. Accordingly important to the deputies in the Bundestag was the topic.
The record of 2005, on the other hand, had a reason that was mainly in the administration and not in the labor market. This year, as part of the Hartz IV reform, unemployment and welfare benefits were merged and unemployment statistics rebuilt accordingly. Almost 400,000 people - according to an estimate by the Federal Employment Agency - who had previously received social assistance but were not considered unemployed were now listed in the unemployment statistics.
The economy, on the other hand, was not all that bad, so the unemployment rate dropped the following year. As a result, less and less persistent unemployment and the unemployed were debated in the Bundestag in 2005 than in the previous record-breaking years.
By contrast, at the end of the nineties, the third negative record period, unemployment was almost as frequent and just as persistent in the Bundestag as it was in 1985. These years were also a time of great social changes. The turnaround had taken place and had given the economy in the west a boom, which now dwindled, as Germany could export less. Financing the turnaround had also enormously increased the debt burden of the federal government. For three years, the parliamentarians debated the topic with consistently high frequency.
Of course, that does not say anything about how they discussed whether they found the fact dramatic or not. The frequency also gives no indication of what the politicians did against it. One thing is for sure: unemployment was never the same for them. And that may well be an indication that they took the concerns of people seriously and take.