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The Bottom Level - On the Road to Global Precarity - IUF Comment 26/2006

Sascha Tamm, IUF

Poverty is a quite precarious topic, especially if the public accepts the numerous and blatant nonsensical and one-sided definitions and explanations of the causes of poverty that are given to them by German politicians. It all begins with the definition of the poverty line, which is the basis for the data that is currently being discussed. Currently, the poverty line is measured at 60 percent of average income. Previously, however, it was measured at 50 percent. According to this definition, poverty will always exist. For example, if the income of the affluent class increases, poverty will also immediately increase but this changes nothing because the poverty line is an arbitrary number.  


This follows the current description of poverty in which the lower class is regarded as victims of "society," who are only victims not because of Hartz IV but because of the reductions in social benefits. Many people actually buy into the idea that higher social benefits would increase motivation or lead the uneducated to the university.  


Hartz IV is certainly not the end-all solution. Nevertheless, it is a small step in the right direction. Hartz IV cannot be blamed for the disappearance of the precariat from the employment market. In addition to the fact that in every society there are those who will always belong to the lower class, it has been the policymakers who have actually caused the disappearance of the precariat. As a result, the German employment market has been compartmentalized in favor of the worker. It is noteworthy that, as a reaction to this current debate, a mandatory minimum wage is once again being demanded.  


It is not particularly frightening that there are people within a society who are unmotivated, unambitious, uneducated, etc. However, what is really frightening is that policymakers do not understand (or chose not to understand) how destructive their sanctimonious and moralistic employment market policies, coupled with their social rhetoric, actually are. For years, the public has been coerced into believing that, without giving much effort, they could live comfortably and use income incentives to receive a better education. If such a policy is followed, Germany will move one step closer to the global world of the precariat -- a world that is inexplicable, protectionist, unprepared for change and uncompetitive.  





  • Sascha Tamm, IUF


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