Berlin denies softening tone of report into inequality in Germany
Berlin has disputed claims that it softened the tone of a government report warning of a growing inequality in German life.
The ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said passages in an early draft of the “Poverty and Wealth” report, published every four years, noted that “private wealth in Germany is distributed very unequally”. This statement is absent from the most recent drafts.
An earlier draft noted, too, that “while wage developments at the top end showed a positive upward trend, wages at the lower end of the scale have fallen in price-adjusted terms in the past 10 years”.
“The wage gap has widened”, the original report noted, which could “jeopardise social cohesion”. The report’s authors also noted that “in 2010 four million people in Germany work for less than €7 an hour gross”.
All of these statements drawing on the consequences of Germany’s recent reform policies vanished from more recent versions of the report, according to the newspaper. Economics minister Philipp Rösler, leader of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), reportedly made it known that the draft report “does not reflect the government’s opinion”.
The latest draft of the report instead notes that sinking earnings are “an expression of structural improvements” on the labour market because the number of those without work had dropped in the period of study.
Germany’s labour ministry denied the report had been air-brushed but changed as part of a “normal process . . . of consultation with different ministries”. A government spokesman said the final version of the unreleased report noted that German salaries had not spread further apart in the period of study: 2007 to 2011.
German unions were critical of the alterations, as were opposition leaders. “People notice when something becomes imbalanced and that the gap between poor and rich is growing further,” said Andrea Nahles, Social Democrat (SPD) general secretary. Green Party co-leader Cem Özdemir described the procedure as “balance sheet falsification”.