Will social security eventually be eliminated?

Word of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany
and the German Bishops' Conference
on the economic and social situation in Germany

content

 

Preface

The Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Bishops' Conference present their word on the economic and social situation in Germany at a time when courageous and far-sighted action is particularly required. Unemployment in Germany peaked after the Second World War. The welfare state has reached its financial and financial limits. The traditional social culture is undergoing major changes in the course of industrialization and urbanization and has dissolved in many places. Claims and egoism are increasing and endanger solidarity in society.

Guided and encouraged by the Christian understanding of people, by the biblical message and Christian social ethics, the churches want to make their contribution to the necessary reorientation of society and the renewal of the social market economy. It is their concern to contribute to an understanding of the fundamentals and perspectives of a humane, free, just and solidarity order of state and society and thereby to make a joint effort for a future in solidarity and justice possible. The churches do not see it as their task to give detailed political or economic recommendations. It is also not their business to take a stand on current political issues and take on the role of arbitrator. The churches see their mandate and their competence above all in standing up for that which serves the solidary balance and at the same time the common good.

The word of the churches is divided into six chapters. Chapter 1 recognizes the consultation process that preceded the creation of the common word. Chapters 2 to 5 are based on the structural principle "see - judge - act". In the final chapter it should be made clear that the common word for the churches also means self-commitment.

Chapters 2 to 5 have a different character. Chapters 3 and 4 refer to the principles and standards which, in the opinion of the churches, are an indispensable prerequisite for a solidary and future-oriented social and economic order. The churches are primarily concerned with this basic consensus. They hope to gain broad approval for this. The details and directions in Sections 2 and 5, on the other hand, are a contribution to public understanding of problems and possible solutions.

The six chapters are preceded by a kind of introduction that systematically summarizes the basic ideas. This "short text" cannot and should not replace the detailed word. But it makes it easier to grasp the intention of the churches and to get an overview of their basic concerns.

The Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Bishops' Conference have prepared their word in a broad consultation process. Other churches participated in the implementation of the process. Numerous comments have been submitted. Thank you very much to everyone who has contributed in one way or another.

 

Hanover / Bonn, February 22, 1997

 

Regional Bishop Dr. Klaus Engelhardt

Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany

Bishop Dr. Karl Lehmann

Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference

 

Introduction

(1) The word of the churches presented by the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Bishops' Conference is entitled: "For a future in solidarity and justice". It refers to the current discussion about standards of economic and social policy. In Two terms have come to the fore: future viability and sustainability. It is not enough to gear action to the needs of today or a single legislative period, not even to the needs of the current generation. Sometimes there is no alternative to short-term crisis management. But Individual and political action must not be exhausted in this: Anyone who postpones or neglects necessary reforms will sooner or later steer into an existence-threatening crisis.

(2) The churches advocate that solidarity and justice are generally accepted as decisive standards of a sustainable economic and social policy that is fit for the future. They see it as their task in the current situation to point out perspectives of the Christian faith for a humane community, the Christian understanding of people and inalienable basic values. Solidarity and justice are more necessary than ever. Deep rifts run through our country: above all the rift caused by mass unemployment, but also the growing rift between prosperity and poverty or the still far from closed rift between East and West. But solidarity and justice are not undisputedly valued today. Egoism at the individual level corresponds to the tendency of social groups to rigorously prioritize their particular interests in relation to the common good. Some would like to say goodbye to the regulatory idea of ​​justice. They mistakenly believe that a balance of interests occurs naturally in the free market economy. This finding represents a great challenge for the churches and Christians. Solidarity and justice are at the heart of every biblical and Christian ethic.

(3) This introduction summarizes the main ideas of the word. It does not do this in the form of a summary of the individual chapters, but through a systematic presentation developed in 10 theses:

1. The churches do not want to make politics themselves, they want to make politics possible.

(4) The word of the churches is not an alternative expert report and no further annual economic report. The churches are not a political party. They do not seek political power to carry out a particular program. In the field of economic and social policy, they see their mission and competence primarily in advocating a value orientation that serves the well-being of all. They regard it as their special obligation to make sure that the concerns of those who are easily forgotten in economic and political calculations because they cannot articulate themselves effectively: the poor, the disadvantaged and the powerless, as well as the coming generations and the dumb creature. In this way they want to create the conditions for a policy that is based on the standards of solidarity and justice.

(5) The consultation process is a prime example of this. An intensive process of awareness building and mutual learning took place in him. That has a lot more to do with political action than meets the eye. In a democracy, the political ability and willingness to act are decisively determined by the attitudes and behavior of all citizens. The church's contribution, such as in the consultation process, is the more successful the more it succeeds in changing attitudes and behavior and thereby expanding the political scope for action, and vice versa, the more unsuccessful, the less it triggers and effects in this respect. In a democracy, the political room for maneuver depends on the attitudes and behavior of the voters. But politicians cannot be relieved of their responsibility to courageously use the existing and newly created room for maneuver.

2. The quality of social security and the performance of the economy are mutually dependent.

(6) The basis for discussion with which the churches started the consultation process in November 1994 was often referred to as a "social paper". This is a shortening that does not do justice to either the churches' intention or the task at hand. The social and economic situation, because the quality and financial stability of social security and the performance of the economy are mutually dependent. Only that which has been provided in terms of goods and services in a certain period of time can be distributed Macroeconomic capacities are permanently overwhelmed by a disproportionate increase in the redistribution carried out by the state, then the financial foundations of social security are undermined.

(7) The dynamic character of the market economy system, which West Germany benefited especially in the 50s and 60s, is currently having an effect in favor of other providers in the globalized economy. This creates pressure to adapt to the German economy, which is also reflected in job cuts. The creation of new jobs is not keeping pace with this. The dangers associated with this development must not be belittled or belittled. There is an urgent need for action.

(8) The economic and social situation in Germany must not be talked about badly either. The sustained export surpluses prove that large parts of the German economy are still performing well. Unit labor costs are an essential, but not the only, economic factor. Collective bargaining and social security have led to a social peace that has proven to be a significant locational advantage.

3. The social market economy needs a structural and moral renewal.

(9) An economic and social order cannot do without framework legal norms and institutions. Appeals are not enough. The concept of the social market economy has taken this insight into account. It has been practiced successfully in the Federal Republic of Germany for five decades. The freedom of the market and social equilibrium were the main pillars. The churches continue to see the concept of the social market economy - also for the ongoing, hardship associated with the economic consolidation of the new federal states and for the deepening and expansion of European unification - as the appropriate framework for a sustainable economic and social policy. The economic performance and the quality of social security are like two pillars of a bridge. The bridge needs both pillars. Today there is a great danger that competitiveness will be strengthened at the expense of social security. Not only as an advocate of the weak, but also as an advocate of reason, the churches warn against undermining the pillar of social security.

(10) An essential condition for the success of the social market economy was its constant improvement. That presupposes the ability to reform. Today, on the other hand, the preservation of vested rights and structural conservatism are widespread, on all sides. Preservation of vested rights must not become a battleground in the discussion about the restructuring of the welfare state. The defense of acquisitions of subsidies and tax advantages also prevents reforms.

(11) Fundamentally, the renewal of the economic order must aim at its further development into a socially, ecologically and globally committed market economy. Anyone who does not preserve the natural foundations of life pulls the rug from under the feet of all economic activity. By their very nature, solidarity and justice cannot be restricted to their own community; they must be understood worldwide. That is why ecological and global obligations must be added to social obligations. The expectation that a market economy without such obligations, a somewhat adjective-free, pure market economy, would be better able to meet the challenges is a misconception.

(12) The structures alone are not enough, however. A socially, ecologically and globally committed market economy is morally much more demanding than is generally conscious. In order to be permanent, the structures must be embedded in a culture that sustains and supports them. Individual self-interest, a decisive structural element of the market economy, can degenerate into destructive egoism. The most obvious consequences are bribery, tax evasion or abuse of subsidies and benefits. It is a cultural task to give self-interest a form that is compatible with the common good.

(13) The churches have a rich treasure trove in the biblical and Christian tradition, which, as in the past, can also be made effective in shaping culture in the future. They stand for a culture of compassion. The experience of God's mercy, from the liberation of Israel from Egypt, is the basis in the Bible for the double commandment to love God and to love one's neighbor. Keeping an eye on the suffering of others is a condition of all culture. Mercy in the sense of the Bible does not represent an accidental, fleeting, temporary feeling. The poor should experience mercy with reliability. This mercy urges justice.

4. In social security there is nothing to be said for a system change, but reforms are essential.

(14) The various pillars of social security have been built up in Germany over a period of more than a hundred years as an adaptable system of solidarity-based risk community. This system deserves to be preserved and defended in its basic idea and its basic elements. Germany is still one of the richest countries in the world. The gross national product has never been as high as it is now. The alternative models currently being discussed do not represent future-oriented solutions that could justify lengthy and risky conversion procedures. The references to the conditions in the USA fail to recognize the different socio-cultural traditions and raise questions of social justice.

(15) In the context of the current social security system, however, noticeable changes are necessary in order to ensure financial stability. This also includes structural changes that prevent individuals from behaving to the detriment of the insured community. Eligibility and performance obligation must be linked more noticeably. This also necessitates cuts in social benefits. They will only come about in an argument. In addition to the necessary legislative decisions, this dispute has its most meaningful place in the dispute between the social partners.

(16) A considerable weakness of the current system of social security lies in the primary link to earned income. This has serious effects, especially on the situation of women, and it stands in the way of orientation towards a more comprehensive understanding of work that is not fixated on gainful employment. But even in this regard, slow steps of adjustment are more promising than the big leap of a radical change.

(17) Considerable problems arise from the age structure of the population. Germany is one of the countries in Europe with the lowest fertility rate. Childlessness has risen sharply among the younger generations, society is polarizing into private ways of life with and without children, thereby endangering their future viability.

(18) A careful distinction must be made between quantitative and qualitative changes in the structure of the welfare state. In the 1960s and 1970s, too, the structures in the Federal Republic of Germany earned the name of the welfare state. It is not agreed that, under changed conditions, all past achievements can be retained in full.

5. The most urgent task of economic and social policy in the next few years is to reduce mass unemployment.

(19) Persistent mass unemployment is a dangerous explosive: in the lives of the people and families affected, for the particularly stressed regions, especially large parts of eastern Germany, for social peace. Without overcoming mass unemployment there can be no reliable consolidation of the welfare state. The persistently high unemployment leads to a loss of income in social security and causes high costs, especially in the context of unemployment insurance and social assistance. In this respect, it is not the welfare state that is too expensive, but unemployment.

(20) However, this insight must not prevent us from taking the possible steps to relieve and stabilize the social security system under conditions of persistent unemployment. This includes the gradual removal of non-insurance benefits from social insurance. These services cannot all be omitted and must be financed through taxes. But with such a shift the point is to noticeably lower the ancillary wage costs, to allow all efficient citizens to share in the expenses for non-insurance benefits and to no longer unilaterally burden jobs.

(21) Energetic and sustained efforts to reduce mass unemployment will be a priority joint task in the next few years. They also serve to ensure that women participate in working life on an equal footing.The federal government, states and municipalities, companies and trade unions as well as the various social groups must work together here. There are no patent remedies. It depends on using different paths. Competitive job creation remains a priority. This is what it serves when labor costs are reduced. The social partners bear a great deal of responsibility here. However, more economic growth alone will not create a sufficient number of jobs in the foreseeable future. Therefore, additional funds must be added: above all, the division of gainful employment, as is desired by many women, but also by men to better reconcile work and family, the conversion of at least part of the overtime worked into regular full-time and part-time jobs and the instrument publicly funded work that can be used to finance work instead of unemployment.

6. The welfare state serves the social equilibrium. That is why he burdens the stronger in favor of the weaker.

(22) Social equalization is an integral part of the concept of the social market economy. Anyone who questions the principle of a limited correction of income distribution is questioning the welfare state. Only a financially efficient state can function as a welfare state. He needs the means to be able to meet the obligation to social equilibrium. In the sensible steps to "slim down" the state, he must not be "starved" and in the end "emaciated" so much that he can only insufficiently fulfill his task as a welfare state.

(23) The applicable principle that performance must be worthwhile in the economic field must not lead to the fact that the recipients of high incomes are unilaterally relieved of their contributions to social equalization. What is more, the ability to finance social compensation based on solidarity is not only determined by current income, but also by assets. If, with regard to property, the preservation of substance and property is declared inviolable, then the social obligation of property is drastically restricted or even abolished in one important relationship. The argument is spreading more and more that many citizens find the tax burden too high and that it should therefore be reduced. Or: Because of the high tax burden, illegal work is spreading, and therefore the tax burden must be reduced. Such arguments and sentiments must be taken seriously by politicians, but they must not become the primary reference point for decisions. Rather, the common good must take precedence. In view of the unbearable mass unemployment, there is a need to improve the opportunities for creating new jobs. To the extent that it contributes to this, lowering the tax burden is right and necessary.

(24) Not only poverty, but also wealth must be a subject of political debate. Redistribution is currently often redistribution of the shortage, because the excess is spared on the other side. In any case, economic development tends to increase the share of capital income compared to the share of wage income. The postulate of a broader diversification of wealth, which has long been advocated by the churches, becomes all the more important. A number of investment wage models have been developed for this purpose.

(25) Social equilibrium and social balance are also required when the burdens are redistributed. Changes and adjustments to the welfare state must not only, and not primarily, be expected of the low-wage earners, the unemployed and those receiving social assistance. The sense of justice will be severely disturbed if at the same time compromises are made with those who can easily cope with them and determined efforts are made to combat tax evasion and tax evasion.

7. The welfare state must be further developed in such a way that the state-guaranteed supply is supported by more personal responsibility and responsibility of the small social units. It needs a supporting and complementary social culture.

(26) The welfare state needs further development, especially in view of the financing problems: individual responsibility and responsibility of the small social units must be strengthened. The traditional social culture is undergoing major changes in the course of industrialization and urbanization and has dissolved in many places. Approaches to a new social culture are emerging. You need to be encouraged. That is why families and new forms and opportunities of solidarity, for example in the networks of associative self-help, in the citizens' movements and honorary offices or in mutual neighborhood help, play a prominent role in the words of the churches. A new social culture cannot and should not replace the state system of social security, but it can produce services that were previously expected all too quickly from the state. A developed social culture also helps to overcome loneliness and social coldness, and thus creates the conditions for a more humane society.

(27) It is precisely these facts that are at stake in the concept of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity has been appropriately translated as giving priority to personal responsibility. This also includes more room for maneuver in the company in terms of working hours and wages. Too much must not be agreed upon in a binding manner for everyone. The lower levels are closer to the people affected and can come to more appropriate and humane solutions. In its original sense, subsidiarity is a principle that protects the individual and small and medium-sized units from being deprived of what they can achieve on their own initiative and with their own efforts. On the other hand, a different emphasis is placed where, with reference to the principle of subsidiarity, tasks are given downwards and then voluntary services are demanded and risks and costs are transferred to the individual. Subsidiarity is about protecting and supporting individuals and the lower levels of society, but not about passing growing risks on them. In this respect, subsidiarity and solidarity, subsidiarity and the welfare state belong together. Subsidiarity means: empowering people to take responsibility, subsidiarity does not mean: leaving the individual alone with his or her social security.

8. The inequality of living conditions in western and eastern Germany will remain noticeable for a long time to come. The gift of unity must be brought to life economically and socially.

(28) The economic situation in eastern Germany has improved remarkably after the deep slump of 1990/91. Nevertheless, the different economic situation in the new federal states compared to the situation in the old federal states can be experienced every day. The unification has required painful processes of adjustment from the people in eastern Germany, especially many women who have to bear the brunt of the employment crisis. They keep stopping.

(29) For West Germans it is decades of experience: Freedom has its price; it can be abused. For many East Germans, the joy of the newly won freedom was mixed with the horror of the dissolution of social ties and the ruthlessness in the pursuit of selfish interests. The price for moving out of the dominant, but also caring dictatorship of the GDR was, in particular, a loss of sense of security and state-planned welfare.

(30) The economic achievements that are required of West Germans to build economic conditions in the new federal states for a longer period of time cannot be overlooked. It is part of Germany's burden of the war. The sacrifices of solidarity, which incidentally are also made by the people in the new federal states, are fully justified. The willingness to bear the necessary burdens is also a reason for gratitude. Voices that urge a rapid dismantling of these services should not be yielded.

(31) The differences in real living conditions are a consequence of the separate development in different systems. Overcoming them is one of the tasks of the renewed unity of the Germans. Should it not be possible in rich Germany to even out the east-west divide and bring the living conditions closer together - how can one still keep the hope that, in view of the widely divergent living conditions in Europe and beyond, a greater degree of social justice will be created can be? It is not simply a matter of bringing the East to "western standards" in terms of production, consumption and infrastructure. In order to meet the requirements of a society that is fit for the future, both parts of Germany must change in the process of further growing together.

9. People share the world with the other creatures of God. Germany lives in the world together with other countries. Solidarity and justice are indivisible.

(32) The basic condition for sustainable development is the preservation of the natural foundations of life. No country in the world gets richer in the long run by destroying these foundations. The rule of distribution should therefore apply: the law and fairness of the use of resources must be guaranteed both among the world population now alive and in the course of generations. In order not to exceed the carrying capacity of the ecological systems, raw materials cannot be taken from nature indefinitely and only as many residues and pollutants can be introduced into it as they can absorb without damage. These sustainability criteria make it necessary to promote ecological structural change. It implies lifestyle changes, and it entails such changes. The churches help to make a policy of ecological structural change possible if they interpret the biblical idea of ​​conversion to include changes in lifestyle and criticize the equation of "living well" and "having a lot".

(33) The Church has a message for all people. For them, the horizon of solidarity and justice beyond Germany and Europe can only be global. This is particularly topical at a time when the world economy is gripped by waves of globalization. However, this globalization does not occur like a force of nature, but must be shaped within the framework of economic and financial policy. It can give many economically less developed countries new opportunities. Of course, the chances only exist as long as the rich countries are willing to keep their markets open and to open them further. This demands changes from the people in Germany and is associated with losses for some branches of the economy. In this situation, the churches advocate affirming and promoting such a development. You cannot first call for opportunities for economic development for the poorer countries, but then back off when it costs you yourself. Promoting the economic and social development of poorer countries is not only a requirement of global solidarity and justice, it is also a requirement of self-interest: it is essential to combat the causes of flight. It is part of a forward-looking peace policy.

10. The word of the churches on the economic and social situation in Germany is not a final word.

(34) The Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Bishops' Conference are responsible for the word presented. In preparation you carefully evaluated the contributions of the consultation process, listened carefully to different voices and weighed the arguments put forward. The word that has arisen from it cannot, by its very nature, be a conclusive statement. The EKD Council and the German Bishops' Conference invite you to a critical discussion. The word is part of the ongoing public discussion about the primary goals of economic and social action and the best ways to achieve these goals.

 

1. The consultation process

1.1 The time of change and renewal

(35) On the threshold of a new millennium, not only Germany and Europe, but all industrialized and developing countries are in a phase of rapid and profound changes and upheavals. The German unification, the European integration process, the end of the East-West conflict associated with the post-war order, the pace of technical progress and the expansion of modern information, communication and transport technologies have resulted in developments whose effects cannot yet be foreseen in detail are. The international interdependencies are increasing, the global integration of the markets as well as the global economic exchange of goods, capital and services are advancing, the competition is intensifying. In addition, there are demographic and social shifts that go hand in hand with global migration, the aging of industrial societies, the individualization of lifestyles and the differentiation of lifestyles. All of this requires continuous and, in some cases, drastic adjustment processes.

(36) The diverse changes and upheavals affect almost all areas of life in different forms and intensities. They are connected with future opportunities, but at the same time have also led to problems and difficulties for many people. They make it necessary to examine previous habits, convictions and seemingly taken for granted for their sustainability, and this on a German, European and global level. The united, but still far from grown together, Germany is faced with the question of how the socially and ecologically committed market economy can be further developed with the necessary harmonization of living conditions between West and East, what reforms are necessary to overcome persistent mass unemployment and the system to preserve the welfare state security, and to what extent a fundamental rethinking and reorientation is necessary in order to meet the challenges of the future. At the European level, the task is to deepen economic integration through monetary union, a common domestic and legal policy as well as foreign and security policy and to complete the work of unification with a political union. At the same time, the idea and practice of securing peace through political integration, which have been developed in Western Europe over the past 40 years, must also prove themselves in Central and Eastern Europe. This includes the willingness to support Central and Eastern European countries as much as possible in the difficult transformation processes into a free democracy and a market economy. At the global level, it is ultimately a matter of joint responsibility and partnership to create a solidarity-based, just and therefore viable order that is suitable for shaping the changes that are in progress and foreseeable for the benefit of all and a sustainable, i.e. H. To enable sustainable development not least of the poor countries.

 

1.2 Structure and course of the consultation process

(37) The churches see it as their task to assume joint responsibility for a humane and appropriate order of public affairs and, in doing so, to stand up especially for the interests of the poor, the weak and the disadvantaged. The Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the German Bishops' Conference have therefore decided in the current situation of upheaval to prepare a common word on the economic and social situation and to initiate a broad discussion process on the basic conditions of economic, social and societal coexistence. They also see it as a service to society.

(38) This consultation process was initiated on November 22, 1994 with the publication of a basis for discussion 1. This was linked to the invitation to dialogue: a dialogue both within the churches and with politics, business, trade unions and social groups, for advice from the EKD and To advise the German Bishops' Conference on the preparation of the word for which they are responsible and to broaden the basic social consensus by exchanging experiences and arguments. In addition to the EKD and the German Bishops' Conference, other churches have participated in the consultation process. The discussion basis was distributed in a circulation of over 400,000 copies. A large number of meetings and events took place in the churches themselves, in political parties, business associations and trade unions, and above all between church and social representatives. The advice of selected experts was obtained at a central scientific forum on September 12, 1995. February 1996 in Berlin 3. In the course of the consultation process, a total of around 2,500 statements with a volume of over 25,000 pages were submitted 4.

(39) The basis of the discussion had the character of an impulse paper that was intended to set the consultation process in motion and outline the content. It did full justice to that.From the beginning it was clearly stated: “The basis for discussion does not want to and cannot anticipate the intended common word. Rather, this should come about only after the consultation process has been completed and taking into account its results, under the responsibility of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Bishops' Conference. "5

In the course of 1996 an advisory group and an editorial group, which had been appointed by the two church governing bodies, carried out important preparatory work for the preparation, consultation and finally the adoption of the common word by the council of the EKD and the German Bishops' Conference. 6th

 

1.3 Results and effects of the consultation process

(40) With the consultation process, the churches have broken new ground. It was a learning process for everyone involved. Overall, the experiment was a success. The procedure of the consultation process offered excellent opportunities to take account of the legitimate interest in broader internal church participation in the exercise of public responsibility of the churches. At the same time, this procedure intensified the dialogue between church and society at all levels.

(41) The consultation process has produced a number of important substantive contributions and insights. He made it clear what burns most people in the current situation and what primary goals and options for action they see. Among other things, there are:

  • There must be no resignation to mass unemployment. Mass unemployment is not an inevitable doom. There are ways to break them down.
  • General social security, which guarantees all citizens a participation in social life and a fair participation in social goods, is constitutive for society. The social security systems in Germany offer the prerequisite for being able to cope with and adapt to a changed situation, as was possible in the past in a comparable situation.
  • Only that which improves the situation of the weaker lasts. In all fundamental decisions, the consequences for the living situation of the poor, the weak and the disadvantaged must be considered. They have the right to a self-determined life, to participate in social life and social opportunities, as well as to living conditions that respect and protect their dignity.
  • More intensive thought must be given to the living situation of the family, women, children, young people and the safeguarding of their interests.
  • The internal unity in Germany is more than just an adjustment of living conditions in the East to those in the West. Both parts must clearly reorient themselves in the process of growing together.

Measured against the quantitative scope devoted to the individual topics in the statements, the consultation process also showed that the major tasks for the future - preserving the natural foundations of life, changing the prevailing model of prosperity, European unification and production of more international justice - to take a back seat to the pressing social problems on one's own doorstep. All these findings had to be carefully considered and appreciated in the preparation of the word presented here, without having already decided on the emphases and accents of the word's content. The consultation process encompasses the whole range of views expressed in church and society on the economic and social situation. Due to his nature and disposition, he cannot anticipate the substantive decisions about the word on the economic and social situation. But what is its point then? There are five main aspects to be mentioned here:

(42) First, the consultation process has greatly enriched the preparation of the content of the word on the economic and social situation. The EKD Council and the German Bishops' Conference cannot and do not want to comment on economic and social issues without receiving detailed advice. So far, this has largely been done in such a way that commissions from experts from different disciplines assist them. This tried and tested form of elaborating church statements will also be retained in the future and will remain decisive. The procedure of the consultation process broadens and deepens the formation of opinions and decision-making. Not only the advice of scientists and experts can and must be authoritative, but it has an independent meaning to listen to the broad circle of actors and those affected in economic and social life. The comparison between the basis of the discussion and the word presented here shows what insights and suggestions the consultation process has produced. Of particular importance is the introduction of a separate section devoted to the challenges for the churches themselves. The churches - as many contributions in the consultation process warned - cannot express themselves on standards for economic and social action without measuring their own action in these areas against the same standards. Women in particular have drawn attention to the fact that the basis for discussion largely ignored the special situation of women. That had to be taken into account.

(43) Second, the consultation process can broaden the political room for maneuver. In a democracy, the political room for maneuver depends on the attitudes and behavior of the voters. The consultation process is not without significance for this. It is a contribution to awareness building and social learning. If - as happened in the consultation process - people are not confronted with a finished result that they can only accept or reject, but are themselves involved in the deliberations and considerations, awareness-building and learning take place more intensely. Such processes have much more to do with political action than is apparent at first glance. The criticism of politicians, which is common in the face of grievances in economic and social life, falls short of the mark. In a democracy, the political ability and readiness to act are decisively determined by the attitudes of the citizens. The consultation process is therefore all the more successful, the more it succeeds in changing attitudes and behavior and thereby expanding political leeway - and vice versa, the less consequential the less it is able to do so.

(44) Third: The consultation process offers a framework in which the basic social consensus is formed, strengthened and broadened. The invitation to a public dialogue associated with the publication of the discussion basis met with extremely broad approval. The basis for discussion was an impetus or platform for numerous discussions: between the churches and the parties and social groups, within the churches and social groups, between the various social groups, at the local level as well as at the level of governing bodies. The consultation process thus served to form, strengthen and broaden the basic social consensus. Polemics against the consensus culture are short-sighted. Consensus in no way means the absence or exclusion of conflict. But conflicts can be more easily carried out in a way that is compatible with the common good, compromises as a balance between different or conflicting interests can be reached more easily if the conflict partners are based on a common basic consensus.

(45) Fourth, the consultation process has brought about practical changes at the personal and local levels and strengthened networks of solidarity support. The dialogue has brought about small and large changes for many participants, set learning processes in motion and set seemingly immovable fronts. The links between the various problems were discovered and larger connections recognized. Prejudices were questioned, arguments that had hitherto been ignored were listened to carefully. In the course of the consultation process, for example, a high level of solidarity and concern for the fate of the unemployed has emerged. Initiatives and groups have formed that want to make an effective contribution to practical support and solidarity, and a large number of concrete, even unconventional measures of help and support, including personal material sacrifices, have been set in motion.

(46) Fifth, the churches have learned through the consultation process. While there is a high level of sensitivity within the churches for their service to society and an abundance of impressive activities, there are also quite a few congregations and Christians who are worryingly self-centered and who pay too little attention to what is going on in society. That standing up for solidarity and justice is an indispensable part of witnessing the gospel and that not only the chorale but also the cry of the poor must have its place in the worship service, that "mysticism", i.e. the encounter with God, and "politics", i.e. the service of the Society for Christians to be inseparable - all this has come to the fore in the consultation process. Last but not least, a valuable experience was the renewed confirmation that a common social-ethical speaking and acting of the churches is possible, but also necessary.

(47) Overall, it becomes clear that the consultation process must not be measured solely by the word that is now being put before us. In the foreword to the basis of the discussion there are the following sentences: “In a certain way, the following applies: the journey is the goal. Even the committed conversation, the serious joint reflection, the many attempts to find solutions make this consultation process valuable and give it an independent meaning alongside the final result. "This never meant that the path could and should be the goal of a common word But even and especially in retrospect, it remains the same: The results, effects and side effects achieved in the course of the consultation process have an independent meaning in addition to the common word for which the Council of the EKD and the German Bishops' Conference are responsible.

 

2. Society in transition

(48) Developments in most Western European countries after the Second World War were shaped by the political will to combine economic progress with social equilibrium. This welfare state tradition, which goes back to the 19th century, found expression in the Federal Republic of Germany in the model of the social market economy. In the meantime, Germany and many other countries are facing new, sometimes global, challenges: rationalization processes, the European integration process and, above all, the internationalization of the goods and capital markets are associated with radical economic and social change and, last but not least, have a lasting effect on the labor market. The ecological limits of economic development require changes that can no longer be postponed. Long-lasting mass unemployment and the associated problems of the welfare state endanger solidarity and social peace.

 

2.1 Persistent mass unemployment

(49) In Germany and in the other EU member states, ongoing mass unemployment is the most pressing political, economic and social challenge. The catastrophic situation on the labor market is unacceptable for the people affected and for the constitutional state. In the consultation process too, unemployment was one of the topics that received the greatest attention in the submissions. In the statements, the parties and local authorities, the collective bargaining partners and those responsible for financial policy as well as all those responsible for employment policy are urged to make their contribution to a sustainable reduction in unemployment.

 

2.1.1 Unemployment burdens

(50) More than 20 years ago, the number of registered unemployed in West Germany exceeded the million mark for the first time since the early 1950s. Since then, unemployment has solidified structurally and the number of those who cannot find a job even in times of economic upturn has grown steadily. In West and East Germany together, 4.6 million women and men were registered as unemployed in January 1997; in the EU countries at the end of December 1996 there were around 18.1 million. This does not include employees who take part in retraining and advanced training measures, are on short-time work or in the context of job creation measures, are in early retirement or have withdrawn in resignation. Youth unemployment poses a particular employment policy challenge. A growing number of young people, especially young women, run the risk of never being integrated into the employment system.

(51) West German society is wealthy, its economy is one of the most successful in the world; nevertheless, unemployment has been rising for decades. The ideas about gainful employment are still largely based on the traditional model of industrial work. However, permanent employment in the industrial sector is losing weight and importance compared to the service sector. At the same time, so-called marginal employment and bogus self-employment are increasing. These upheavals in employment relate to the basic structures of a society in which gainful employment is central to regular income, social integration and the opportunities for personal development.

(52) Although unemployment is a macroeconomic problem, the misconception that it is based on individual failure is widespread. Many unemployed people refer to such blame, withdraw out of shame and often feel marginalized. They miss the chance to secure their livelihood independently, to maintain contacts, to gain further qualifications and to participate responsibly in social life.

(53) Long-lasting mass unemployment exacerbates the selection and displacement processes on the labor market: If groups of people are unable to meet certain performance requirements, they will find it very difficult to find a job once they have become unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of long-term unemployed no longer feel in demand. Unemployed people who are out of work for long periods of time eventually in many cases become unable to find work and become people with no expectations. Bitterness and resignation destroy trust in the democratic design of society. A lack of prospects and fear of social decline are a breeding ground for violence and xenophobia.

(54) Since the 1980s, long-term unemployment has increasingly been concentrated in the elderly. Around two thirds of the registered long-term unemployed are over 45 years old. Single women are in a particularly difficult situation. Often, due to their particularly stressful life situation, they have no chance of getting a job and thus earning their own income. They become dependent on social assistance and are hardly able to establish social contacts outside of bringing up children.

(55) Due to the traditional division of labor between men and women, it is mainly women who have taken on family and voluntary work. If you add their share of gainful employment, around two-thirds of the societal work is done by women. Because women still do most of the family work, they are often additionally disadvantaged when it comes to recruitment decisions. That is why they do not take part in gainful employment to the extent that it corresponds to their training and qualifications.

 

2.1.2 Unemployment in the new federal states

(56) Mass unemployment is particularly stressful in the new federal states. It has increased here at a speed and extent that is largely unprecedented in the old federal states. With the collapse of the socialist planned economy, the abrupt introduction of market economy conditions without adequate structural support, the appreciation associated with the monetary union and the loss of the previous eastern markets, entire branches of industry have collapsed. More than two thirds of the employees had to leave their factories and look for new jobs.

(57) In the first 4 years after 1989 the number of people in employment fell from 10 million to around 6 million. At the end of 1996 the unemployment rate was over 15%. More than a third of the unemployed have been unemployed for more than a year. A further increase in unemployment is to be feared if fundamental changes are not made.

(58) A particular problem of unemployment in the new federal states is the situation of women on the labor market.While over 90% of women of working age in the GDR were employed, it was precisely these women who were increasingly pushed out of the labor market after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many of them have no long-term prospect of a job. More than 75% of the long-term unemployed in Eastern Germany are women, often well-qualified younger women. They have to bear the brunt of the employment crisis.

(59) The East German submissions in the context of the consultation process have shown that many citizens of the new federal states feel abandoned despite the extensive West German aid. Because in GDR times, paid work had the function of integrating people into the social structure of a company far more than in the West, unemployment is now more experienced as a loss of social ties and opportunities to participate in social life. Even the social benefits of the West German security systems, which are impressive overall, could not prevent many East Germans from feeling more insecure about their material livelihood and their social status today. Unemployment has devalued work experience and professional qualifications acquired over decades. With the people in the new federal states the impression is solidified that they are misjudged by many West Germans because of their past. A large proportion of West Germans, they claim, have no real idea of ​​their needs.

 

2.1.3 Causes of unemployment

(60) The causes of the increasing structural unemployment trend in Germany since 1973 are diverse and controversial in the political public as well as in the economic debate. Accordingly, opinions also differed in the course of the consultation process. One thing is certain, however: unemployment cannot be explained monocausally.

(61) In recent years economic growth has slowed significantly. The economic growth forces alone are obviously no longer sufficient to sustainably reduce unemployment. It was possible to increase the number of jobs significantly from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, but this was not enough to prevent a further increase in unemployment. This was due to the fact that in recent years far more people have also asked for gainful employment and the labor supply has increased significantly as a result. There has been a significant reduction in jobs over the last few years, which has recently accelerated.

(62) In addition, the structural change in the industrial sector in the course of technical progress has been accompanied by an enormous increase in labor productivity, without the decline in employment being compensated to the same extent by a reduction in working hours or an increase in production. The growth in employment in the service sector has not been enough to offset the loss of jobs in the industrial sector.

(63) According to a widespread opinion, one of the main causes of the high unemployment in Germany is seen in the changes in world politics and the globalization of the economy and competition, which would have triggered far-reaching adjustments in the international division of labor and led German companies to unite undoubtedly have to face tougher global competition. They see themselves as being significantly restricted in their competitiveness, in particular due to the high wage costs, short working hours and the extent of the duties and taxes. Further impairments would result from subsidy-related distortions of competition, high energy prices, a high level of bureaucratisation and regulation, resentment against certain new technologies, a lack of risk capital and currency fluctuations. The problem is also shown by the fact that German companies are increasingly relocating their production abroad, while foreign direct investment in Germany is declining.

(64) Others, however, see it differently. You point out that the labor market crisis is not a peculiarity of the German economy. All developed industrial countries are characterized by a permanent slowdown in growth and long-term high unemployment. At the same time, the international competitiveness of (West) Germany is extraordinarily high. No other country exports such a high proportion of its production. The trade balances with the Southeast Asian emerging countries and the Eastern European reform states are balanced because these countries spend every mark earned through exports to Germany on imports of industrial goods from Germany. The high level of direct investment abroad is also not a real burden for the German economy, because it serves to develop and secure export markets in the long term. In this situation, the obvious national cost-reduction strategies (wage and ancillary wage costs, social standards, corporate taxes, environmental standards) to further improve international competitiveness, at least from an economic point of view, are not a remedy. Such strategies would exacerbate the unequal distribution of income and unilaterally place the burden of adjustment through ruinous competition on workers. This would reduce purchasing power.

(65) The globalization of competition is indeed linked to a significant reduction in jobs in certain areas. Countries with low wages are increasingly taking over the production of labor-intensive products. Germany and other developed countries are more focused on manufacturing products that require high capital investment and high professional qualifications. The need for low-skilled jobs in Germany is falling, while the need for higher-skilled jobs is increasing. As a result, people who are unable to cope with higher demands have a harder time finding a job.

(66) High unit labor costs play an important role as the cause of unemployment in eastern Germany. During the transition from the planned to the market economy, productivity in the East German companies was too low to be competitive after the 1: 1 conversion of wages and the following collective bargaining agreements, which aimed at a rapid adjustment to the West German wage level. In addition, the collapse of the Comecon states (COMECON), the interest of the population in western products and the purchasing practices of the wholesale trade led to demand problems. The unresolved ownership structure, which arose due to the principle of »return before compensation«, as well as the purchase and the imminent closure of East German businesses by their West German competitors, exacerbated and exacerbated the difficulties.

 

2.2 Crisis of the welfare state

(67) In the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the welfare state was the decisive prerequisite for maintaining social peace. It continues to offer the vast majority of the population a high level of social security. However, fundamental changes in the social structure, long-term mass unemployment, demographic development and the situation of public budgets pose great challenges for the social security system.

 

2.2.1 Poverty in the affluent society

(68) Over the past 20 years, poverty has grown in Germany along with wealth. Poverty in Germany differs fundamentally from poverty in third world countries. Nevertheless, poverty is a sting in the affluent society. Poverty has many faces and many causes. It's more than just income poverty. People in need often face multiple burdens, such as low income, insecure and poor housing conditions, high debt, chronic illnesses, psychological problems, long-term unemployment, social exclusion and inadequate support. These poverty situations particularly affect those who have been dependent on social assistance for several years. One of the worst effects of poverty is the loss of one's own home, which is affecting more and more people in Germany, including families with children, single parents, women and young people. Reliable nationwide data on the entire extent of acute housing emergencies, homelessness and homelessness are not available, especially since there are no uniform standards and criteria. The number of homeless people who are officially housed ("legally provided for") is estimated at 250,000 to 300,000.

(69) Poverty is still strongly taboo today. The dispute over the concept of poverty is similar to the dispute over the environment in the early 1970s, when problems were denied by suggesting that they could not be scientifically proven. However, it is important to take note of the actual poverty that exists. There are worrying facts behind the various definitions of poverty:

  • "Income poverty" or "relative poverty": If the poverty line is set at 50% of the average household net income of the population, as is customary internationally for pragmatic reasons of comparability, then 750,000 people lived uninterruptedly between 1984 and 1992 the poverty line, around 4.5 million people were poor for five years or more during that period. Since the social inequalities arose very quickly due to the economic upheavals in the new federal states, they appear particularly blatant here;
  • the "need for social assistance": In Germany, social assistance has the task of enabling all people to lead a decent life. This aims to achieve a minimum income in the sense of an individualized and needs-based basic security. At the end of 1994, over 2.25 million citizens were receiving social assistance Sense (help with livelihood). The trend has shifted in recent years from old-age poverty to child poverty, with the strongest increases being seen among children under the age of seven, their number having risen to 409,000 by the end of 1994. The above-average risk of poverty among children is particularly worrying because it easily solidifies into permanent disadvantages.Since 1992, there has also been a sharp increase in German welfare recipients;
  • The "hidden poverty": Many citizens live in so-called hidden poverty, ie they would actually have a right to social assistance, but do not notice it out of shame, ignorance or great fear of authorities. They include many large families with only one income. According to the poverty study by the German Caritas Association, there are three more covertly poor people for every four recipients of social assistance, which was around 1.8 million citizens in 1993. This means that just over half of those entitled to social assistance actually receive corresponding benefits.

It is crucial not to stop at the argument about the concept of poverty and not to narrow poverty down to the income aspect. It is about seeing the people affected and the fact of poverty in an affluent society and recognizing the need to work to improve the situation.

 

2.2.2 Disadvantage to families

(70) Parents experience living together with children as a great enrichment in their lives. For the sake of their children, they accept many restrictions. But social conditions have changed in the last few decades in such a way that parents are required to make greater economic and personal sacrifices than the childless and that the sustainability of family relationships is increasingly overloaded. The economic burden on families with children can lead to fewer children than they would like. The increasing number of childless people in the Federal Republic of Germany also reveals that attitudes towards children have changed.

(71) Statistical surveys show that the standard of living of a family with two children is considerably below that of a corresponding childless married couple. The measures of the family burden equalization are on average not even able to compensate for the direct expenses caused by children, let alone the falling household income due to the decline in labor force participation. Having several children has now become a risk of poverty. Even more serious than the financial restrictions, however, are other disadvantages for young families: They look for suitable living space for children and, if they can afford it at all, experience that childless people are preferred to them. Large families are even extremely disadvantaged here. They experience disadvantages on the labor market because they are less flexible in terms of space and time. The constant loss of time together (e.g. through shift work or Sunday work) also affects families. Particular burdens arise as a result of unemployment and overindebtedness. The economy, the state and social services are not opposed to the exercise of parental responsibility, but they are often indifferent. H. they treat parents and childless people basically the same. This results in a structural disadvantage for families. Germany is one of the countries in Europe with the lowest birth rate and the largest proportion of single-person households.

 

2.2.3 Financial burdens on the social security system

(72) A major cause of the financing difficulties of the social budget is high unemployment. As a result of mass unemployment, the social insurances lose considerable contribution income and the wage tax income corresponding to the public budgets, while on the other hand the expenditure of the unemployment and pension insurance increases. Lower income and rising expenditure lead to higher contributions, which in turn, as an increase in non-wage labor costs, can impair employment.

(73) The amount of ancillary wage costs is largely due to the fact that the funds of the social security agencies (pension insurance, statutory health insurance, unemployment insurance, etc.) are heavily burdened by expenses for the financing of German unity and for active labor market policy. These benefits are actually the responsibility of the state, but they have been transferred to the social security funds. Because the financing of these so-called "non-insurance benefits" is not covered by federal subsidies, the contribution rates to social security had to be raised several times. In addition, the possibilities of early retirement were used excessively in order to relieve the labor market.

(74) The social benefit ratio is so high - it is around a third of the gross national product - because it is currently around 60% in the new federal states due to structural change in the economy. In the old Länder, on the other hand, it is lower than it has been in years.

(75) Difficulties in financing the social security systems in Germany continue to arise from the fact that their original conditions have fundamentally changed in recent decades. On the one hand, the life plans of younger women are predominantly oriented towards paid work and family at the same time, and female employment has increased sharply, especially with the growth of office and service activities. At the same time, however, family ties have become more unstable. The proportion of single parents is increasing accordingly. In addition, the shortage of gainful employment and the change in employment structures are causing an increase in part-time jobs with less secure employment. This increases the proportion of those whose résumés do not correspond to the normal assumptions of the social security system and who as a result are more at risk of poverty and are dependent on social assistance.

(76) The main causes of the increase in social assistance expenditure are mass unemployment, cuts in social security benefits, inadequate family support and expenditure on asylum seekers and immigrants. Apparently, the security systems upstream of social assistance no longer meet their requirements. Social assistance as the last safety net in the system of social security has been burdened in recent years by the fact that it has increasingly become a standard provision for a growing part of society.

(77) In addition to the current financing difficulties, the development of the population poses additional challenges for the social security system. A persistently low birth rate and a significantly higher average life expectancy lead to an increasing proportion of older people on the one hand and a stagnating and, in the future, decreasing proportion of the working generation as well as children and adolescents on the other. This has significant implications not only for pension insurance, but also for health insurance and for the care of the elderly.A deterioration in the numerical relationship between the number of pension recipients and the number of contributors must lead to higher contribution rates (with unchanged benefits) or (with unchanged contributions) to a significant reduction in the amount of pensions. Similar problems also arise for the financing of civil servants' benefits.

 

2.3 Ecological crisis

(78) The ecological crisis is a global problem. Germany contributes to these global problems. Industrialization has led to a growing overload of the carrying capacity of ecosystems. Although a very high level of technical environmental protection has already been reached in some industries, nature's ability to regenerate is often overloaded; many hazards, injuries and stresses continue to increase.

(79) The most serious environmental damage includes the overexploitation and destruction of renewable resources, the pollution of air, water and soil, the extinction of numerous plant and animal species, the overexploitation of non-renewable resources, the destruction and desertification of landscapes and regions, the high Waste generation and the unresolved problem of nuclear disposal. Problems that have not yet been properly addressed include, above all, the depletion of the ozone layer and the warming of the earth's atmosphere. Due to their global nature and their difficult to calculate consequences for ecological cycles, these climatic environmental threats represent a qualitatively new and existential challenge for modern civilization. Many efforts to improve them fail because of national egoism and the short-sightedness of the industries concerned. The facts are hardly any more controversial. There is also no lack of political declarations of intent. Nevertheless, it is difficult to translate these insights into concrete measures and to use them for ecological cooperation between states.

(80) Industrial societies in particular are developing which is reaching the limits of the carrying capacity of important ecological systems. Due to the rapid consumption of the natural foundations of life, the life chances of people in the countries of the south and of future generations are impaired to a considerable extent. If it is not possible to effectively limit the exploitation of nature, posterity will be left with a mortgage that it can hardly pay off. Follow-up environmental protection is becoming increasingly difficult to finance, and many serious damage to the basis of life is proving to be irreversible. The more necessary environmental protection measures are neglected, the more it is to be feared that only the worst damage can be repaired in the future and that the long-term burdens for other countries and future generations will continue to increase. Despite the vastly improved possibilities for an effective and careful use of resources and for a reduction in pollutant emissions, the damage to the environment continues to grow. A gain in prosperity through only quantitative economic growth is therefore becoming more and more questionable in Western Europe.

(81) In ecological terms, the contribution made by agriculture and forestry beyond the supply of high-quality products to safeguarding and improving the natural foundations of life and maintaining a diverse landscape as a settlement, economic and recreational area wins special weight. The traditional, proven principles of farming are geared towards environmentally friendly and sustainable land use and animal husbandry. It is all the more regrettable that neither the reform of the common European agricultural policy nor national programs have been able to prevent fewer and fewer farmers from finding a living in agriculture and seeing prospects for the future. Numerous farmers have already had to give up their agriculture. Others fear for their professional existence or - if a handover is not possible - for the continued existence of their farm. The difficulties also spread to other areas and occupations in rural areas such as craft, trade and services. The traditional image of agriculture in the village's cultural community is thus losing its formative force. The progressive change from rural agriculture to agro-industry continues.

 

2.4 European integration process

(82) The policy of European unification is of crucial importance for the continent and for the future of Germany. 50 years of peace and stability in Western Europe, the resurgence of the European countries after the Second World War, the peaceful inclusion of Germany in the international community and the restoration of German unity in harmony with European partners would not have been possible without European integration. The work of unification must continue in the future in order to secure peace and stability as well as economic and social progress in Europe. The historical work of European unification must by no means be reduced to the economic aspect. The foundations for this unification work are deeply rooted: in centuries-old, shared, Christian history and tradition, and thus in the awareness of Europeans that they are a community of values ​​from which common political orientations, norms and institutions such as democracy, the rule of law and have developed a modern welfare state. Building on these common values, the European Union emerged as a legal community that has effects in many areas of life.

(83) Against the background of the process of globalization, European integration is given additional weight. The European unification process, in particular the European Economic and Monetary Union, stands for the insight that an economic and social policy that does not want to be dependent on international markets requires overarching decision-making and coordination bodies. The institutions and instruments that have emerged within the European Union and that need to be further developed open up opportunities to further develop a common European economic and social policy.

 

2.5 Global challenges

(84) The process of advancing globalization is based on the worldwide integration of markets and the dismantling of trade and mobility barriers. It would not be possible without the new information and communication technologies. Globalization means: worldwide opening of markets for goods and services, increasing freedom of movement for entrepreneurial activity and worldwide availability of technical knowledge and skills as well as a qualified workforce. In addition, there is a growing mobility of capital. Increasingly, financial resources are not being reinvested in their own country, but are being invested in the international capital markets, so that they are not available for investments and job creation in their own country and are deprived of the task of creating and maintaining jobs within the national framework. The movement of capital is becoming more and more independent.

(85) Globalization thus not only means that the goods, financial and labor markets are increasingly crossing the borders of the nation states, but also means that production and investment decisions increasingly affect the location in several countries. Work processes or value-added components are distributed to different countries to minimize costs. Simple productions can be found where wages are low, research is carried out in countries where there are hardly any legal restrictions, profits are shown where tax rates are particularly low or the depreciation rules are particularly generous.

(86) In the course of globalization, competition has intensified considerably. The emerging countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America demand access to the markets of the industrialized nations with their products and at the same time recommend themselves as locations for new investments. At the current exchange rates, wages in Germany's eastern neighbors are sometimes a tenth (Czech Republic and Poland) of the wages in Germany, and sometimes even a hundredth (Ukraine and Russia).

(87) Globalization harbors both opportunities and risks. For a long time it has given the German economy extensive opportunities to participate in the rapidly growing global markets. Many countries in the south and east have gained access to the markets in the industrialized countries. Provided that world trade is not further distorted by the protectionist efforts of the industrialized countries, this market access is even more important than development aid. In a number of countries, e.g. B. in Asia and Latin America, an economic upswing was achieved, which also benefited large parts of the population of these countries, but not all in the same way. The new prosperity there also leads to more social security. On the other hand, the polarization between the dynamic growth centers and the regions that are losing touch with this development is increasing.

(88) National economic and social policy is becoming more difficult in the age of globalization. Because the advantages of the various nation-states are compared with each other when deciding where to go, the conventional nation-state economic policy comes up against its limits. The process of globalization is so dynamic of its own that it is becoming more and more difficult to influence by a single nation-state. The globalization of the economy means at the same time the globalization of the social and ecological question. This increases the importance of shared responsibility for the international community. Globalization does not happen like a force of nature, it demands political shaping.

(89) The prosperity gap between the poorest and richest countries has continued to widen. In some developing countries, corrupt elites, ethnic conflicts and limited opportunities for the population to participate prevent or slow down economic and political development. In addition to these internal factors, there are external factors that can influence those responsible for politics and economics in industrialized countries. These include the agricultural protectionism of the industrialized countries, slow progress in debt relief, and decisions and agreements by international organizations (e.g. International Monetary Fund, World Bank, UN Security Council).

(90) Wars, violence, human rights violations, natural disasters, misery and hunger are forcing more and more people around the world to leave their home countries. The rapid increase and the extent of migration, flight and displacement around the world have become one of the defining features of the last decades of the twentieth century. This does not leave Germany unaffected either. The migrants who come to Germany as employees, refugees and asylum seekers or as repatriates are only a small part of the global migration movement. Almost 8 million foreigners currently live in Germany, 5.5 million of whom are migrant workers with their families. Many of them are not yet legally or socially integrated, although many of them are already second and third generation living in Germany. Dealing with them is a test area for the openness, solidarity, tolerance and freedom of society

 

3. Perspectives and impulses from the Christian faith

3.1 The question of people