It`s the economy, ..
After visiting the keep-the-French-happy- capital of the EU (Strassbourg), the two political capitals Brussels and Luxembourg and the most European capital of all, Berlin, I am now reporting for duty from the EU`s financial capital Frankfurt am Main. Or Mainhattan if you wish.. I am surrounded by tall yet unexciting buildings of the European Central Bank as well as headquarters of all German banks. Today`s question also deals with money: how much are the Germans suffering from the financial downturn that is reigning the western world these days?...
Many of today`s respondents to are not worried that economical problems in Germany will get as bad as they currently are in the USA. Jenny (23) says: `We have a well-working social welfare system, which means that people can`t fall down as quickly as they do in the United States. Even people who have no job can count on minimum financial security and a place to live.`
`I don`t think the economical crisis in Germany will affect me much`
Moritz (27) thinks that it`s difficult to speak about a German economy: `The differences are huge, even within the country. Some of the Eastern provinces are still marked as `structural areas`, which means that they rely on heavy support by the state. In Western Germany, the region of Saarland is equally unable to keep up with the average. So are different social layers of society. In Germany, not having a respectable education level can make it very difficult to find a job. The other question is: how much influence does Germany have over its own economy? In today`s global world, the economy of Germany can hardly be seen as independent from the French economy or any other national economy in Europe.`
Sebastian (31, photo) thinks that Germany should make it through a global financial crisis without too much damage, provided that China and India are able to maintain their current development: `The United States are an important trading partner for Germany but not the only one. We can deal with lower economic growth in the USA as long as our other trading partners keep doing alright. I am more scared to see differences with other continents grow even bigger. It will mean that immigration issues get ever the more sensitive.`
Personal financial situation
As much as Sebastian thinks that Germany will easily live through this small `economical correction`, he also believes that he will not be affected personally. `It may effect old people whose pensions need to be produced by an ever-shrinking working population. It might also touch people who are employed in manual labour or jobs that require no specific skills. Thanks to my PhD in chemical engineering, I consider myself relatively safe. I should not have trouble finding another job whenever I need one. If I don`t find a job in Germany, I can still go wherever else I want. Engineers are always needed somewhere.`
Sandra (30), who works for the regional government, is less confident. `Prices keep going up. Petrol is getting more expensive, and so is food. People with plenty of money are not affected, but everybody who earns sub-average salaries can feel pain in their wallets. It`s hard to economize on food. Loss of spending power will make people cut their expenses on shopping for clothes, going out and slicing their annual holiday down to one week instead of two.`
Anne (21) is most annoyed by the prices of train tickets, which are increased on a quarterly basis. `I also think that a lot of people are unable to cope with cutbacks on their incomes. Once they have reach a certain standard of living, they will have a hard time to get used to having less money at their disposal. People are attached to their cars. They may use them a bit less, but very few people will be willing to get rid of their car, or to drive slower on motorways. In my case, it`s a bit easier. My sister lent me her car during her one-year stay in Australia. It now stands idle in front of the house. As a student, I can`t afford to drive it with fuel prices at this level.`
Jan-Marcus (27) thinks that differences between poor and rich are quite big in Germany. `There is a small group of very rich people who will remain largely untouched by any financial crisis. They work in industry or engineering. Economical problems in Germany usually touch unfavoured people first: people working in social jobs. It`s quite unfair. Engineers can show the results of their work and everybody will be happy and pay them lots of money. Primary school teachers somehow provide the basis for new generations, but they get paid lots less.`
`I know that it will be difficult to find a job in my area of specialisation: ancient history. But hardly any bit of that difficulty depends on how the economy develops. I have never been walking down the street hearing somebody cream that he needed an ancient historian. It`s more the thinking level that counts than the contents of the study itself. The same goes for most social studies. They can easily be made useful in business environments, and I am happy that the German labour market is quite flexible in that aspect.`
Standard of living
Together with Jan-Marcus, I am trying to find out why Germans seem to be so obsessed with ever-increasing living standards. He explains how he experienced the same when his stipendium increased. `I adjusted my spending patterns accordingly. I am now attached to this new standard and it would be hard to rely on less money. I have this tradition of shopping at the same places, buying the same products in an almost automatic way. I only really adjust my purchasing behaviour on the moments my salary changes. Only those moments force me to be conscious about how much I spend.
Eda (27) thinks that many of Germany`s big spenders would prefer to sell their house over selling their car. `It`s not so much the comfort of the car, it`s the way it extends the personality of the owner. In the same way, it`s not the fact of owning a car, but the expression of being able to afford such car. It`s a confirmation of social status. Managers who work for big company can easily come to work by bike. They will even be appreciated for that, but only in case their colleagues know that they have a big car at home.`
`The recession may make some people scared of dropping out of their social level. They may be more scared of that than of the financial consequences of having less money to spend. Nobody wants to be seen as unemployed or as not progressing in a career. In the same way, many people are unwilling to work for certain types of employers. Ask somebody from Eastern Germany to work for a Polish boss and they will be very unwilling to accept the job`, Eda says.
Laura thinks that she will not have too many problems to adjust if her salary decreased. `I have a job, but I still live with my parents. I do worry about the prices of food and petrol, because they are increasing much quicker than people`s salaries. Studying used to be free of charge but it no longer is. I think that differences between the rich and the poor will only keep increasing over the coming years.`
Germany has not yet forgotten the transition from Deutschmark to Euro. `Many people still blame rising prices on the Euro`, says Laura. Robin (21) says that Germans are not sure what to think of the European Union altogether: `It is helping our country in an indirect way: through international partnerships between countries, facilitated trading and travelling. At the same time, the EU is seen as an indecisive black hole for German money. We pay a lot to the European Union, but we have no clue of where the money ends up. And who is paying us money when we need it? Not the countries to whom our money is being shipped at the moment..`
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