A Look At German Manufacturing

Dave Johnson

PBS NewsHour took a look at why Germany’s economy is doing so well, while much of the rest of Europe is not doing so well.

Here are a few notable excerpts from the transcript:

With just a quarter of America’s population and a quarter of its GDP, Germany exports more than the United States in total, notes Norbert Walter, the former chief economist of Deutsche Bank.

[CEO] NICOLA LEIBINGER-KAMMULLER: It’s just a terrible thought having to lay off people, because we like our employees and we need them. And they are well-trained, and they’re loyal. And they have been working for us for decades, some of them, or many of them have. And it’s just a terrible thought to have to send them away.

MARGARET WARNER: Instead, Trumpf turned to a new German program called Kurzarbeit, or short work, cutting its employees’ work hours and pay. The government made up part of the difference. And they got extra training on their off-days.

… MARGARET WARNER: Nicola’s brother, Peter Leibinger, vice chairman of Trumpf, said the short work program, readily accepted by the German workers, positioned industry to restart quickly after the downturn, and it paid off big-time for Trumpf.

PBS NewsHour: Amid Eurozone Crisis, How Germany Became Europe’s Richest Country

In June Harold Meyerson wrote in, Using German ingenuity to fix our economy, (emphasis added to emphasize what I wanted emphasized)

For a growing number of economists, pundits and even the occasional CEO, Germany offers lessons in how an advanced economy can compete globally and actually raise, not lower, its living standards.

In a March paper for the Council on Foreign Relations, Nobel laureate economist Michael Spence and New York University researcher Sandile Hlatshwayo argue that Germany’s success at building a booming manufacturing sector that constitutes almost twice the share of the economy that ours does is largely the result of “a broad agreement among business, labor and government” to keep wages competitive and high-value-added production at home.

Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, also attributes Germany’s overwhelmingly positive trade balance and comparatively low unemployment rate (7 percent) to that tripartite system. David Leonhardt, the New York Times economics columnist, wrote last week that Germany owed its edge in global competitiveness to a range of policies that could not be more different than ours: limiting homeownership, improving education (including vocational and technical education) and keeping unions strong — which is why “middle-class pay,” he noted, “has risen at roughly the same rate as top incomes.”

Please read Meyerson’s entire piece. Especially this part:

Second, the key to both the retention and the continual upscaling of manufacturing in Germany is the composition of corporate boards, which are required by law to have an equal number of management and employee representatives.

Also, How Germany got it right on the economy and Why Germany and China are winning

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