Germany is widely considered to have been one of the winners to emerge from the financial crisis. This is partly due to the fact that, since the crisis began in 2009, Germany – in contrast to almost every other EU member state – has seen no rise in unemployment, has managed to increase its growth and exports again (to the extent that German companies have been able to chalk up record profits) and was able to bring its public debt, which spiralled out of control in 2009, back under control just two years later in 2011. The capital markets rewarded this positive development – during a period of extremely low interest rates – with good credit ratings and additional low interest rates, which allowed Germany to reduce its interest payments by more than EUR 280 billion between 2010 and 2015. Indeed, all the signs seem to suggest that Germany has come through the global financial crisis even stronger than before.
However, the drawback to this apparent resilience is not only growing social inequality that has taken on a distinctly gendered dimension – as this paper will explain – but its potential expansion throughout the European continent by exporting elements of the German “model for success”. This is because Germany’s growth is down to an export surplus with two very specific causes: firstly, the labour market and welfare reforms implemented as part of Agenda 2010, which were introduced at the beginning of the 2000s, led to considerably restrained wage growth in Germany. This resulted in a drop in domestic demand and imports whilst German exports became more competitive. Secondly, other countries, who were paying higher wages and thus had higher domestic demand, were willing to accept a deficit in their own budget by importing more than they were exporting. In other words, the promise of German competitiveness materialised primarily due to the demand of consumers and markets in other countries.
It was, in effect, “like an enormous stimulus package, amounting to more than four per cent of GDP, being implemented over several years”. By implication, the wage reduction and austerity policies pursued by other countries – for which pressure from the German government is partly to blame – can only be successful if creditors such as Germany agree to increase their economies’ imports. This has yet to happen, and the consequence for many of Germany’s European neighbours has been recession and social division.
- “In the belly of the beast” – Germany emerges victorious from the crisis
- Gradual restructuring instead of shock therapy
- Left-wing actors in the crisis
This publication was financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Federal Foreign Office. This publication or parts of it can be used by others for free as long as they provide a proper reference to the original publication. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung. Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies with the authors.
Author's biographical details
Alex Wischnewski is advisor on feminist politics for DIE LINKE in the German parliament. She is active in the network «Care Revolution» and co-author of a monthly column in the newspaper neues deutschland on topics of Marxist feminism.