How social studies came about

German conditions. A social studies

Josef Schmid

Josef Schmid, born in 1956, has been professor at the Institute for Political Science at the University of Tübingen since 1998. Studies and doctorate at the University of Konstanz, professional activities at the Universities of Bochum, Hamburg, Konstanz and Osnabrück. Member of the board of the Research Institute for Work, Technology and Culture (FATK) and the European Center for Research on Federalism (EZFF); Member of the Rürup Commission, the employment policy advisory board of the Bertelsmann Foundation and the scientific advisory board of the Hans Böckler Foundation as well as various project advisory boards of the foundation; Member of the editorial board of the journals German Policy Studies, Social Progress, GWP (Society, Economy, Politics). Co-editor of the book series "Economy and Social" (at Nomos Verlag) and "Landespolitik" (at Lit-Verlag).

The introduction of the first social insurance by Otto von Bismarck marked the emergence of the German welfare state. The more than one hundred year history of the welfare state shows that the German social model is characterized by continuity. Social insurance, as the institutional core of the Bismarck model, has remained largely unaffected by the political regime changes.

The origins of the welfare state in the German Empire

The origins of the German welfare state go back to the late 19th century and are inextricably linked with the introduction of the first social insurance by Otto von Bismarck. According to an imperial message from Wilhelm I, after lengthy preparations and investigations, the Health Insurance Act passed the Reichstag in 1883. The Accident Insurance Act followed in 1884 and the Invalidity and Old Age Insurance Act in 1889. Although there were already similar regulations in the form of job-related benefit funds, it was only with the introduction of social insurance that the model of a nationally organized, comprehensive and compulsory solidarity community of employees in the form of a self-governing body emerged. An institutional mechanism was thus found that is still valid for social policy today: social insurance is the essential organizational principle of welfare state activities, and contribution financing with entitlements that depend on the amount of contributions and thus secure status is a guideline for German social policy [1].

This development towards a welfare state is not only related to social changes and new risks (industrialization, urbanization, population growth and the erosion of traditional support systems), but also to the interest of the ruling elites in maintaining their position of power. Bismarck used the social security policy as an opportunity to weaken social democracy and socialist trade unions (cf. Schmidt 2005: Part 1).

The interwar period

In 1927, unemployment insurance came into force as a further important pillar alongside health, pension and accident insurance. This established a Reichsanstalt for job placement and unemployment insurance with a substructure of 13 state labor offices and 361 labor offices. When it came to power in 1933, the NSDAP had no concrete socio-political guidelines. But power politics, anti-democratic and racist interventions such as the dissolution of the trade unions, the abolition of freedom of association and the right to strike, the abolition of fundamental rights and the general harmonization and introduction of "leadership principles" have left their mark on this area as well. All in all, however, the National Socialist rulers consistently showed a remarkable disinterest in social policy, because social insurance in particular was difficult to exploit politically. In this way, the basic institutional structures that already existed survived the phase of National Socialism.

The expansion of the welfare state after the Second World War

After the Second World War, the welfare state began to expand and differentiate itself immensely, which continued into the 1970s. The expansion of the health system and a wide range of social services (e.g. in the area of ​​child, youth and social work or outpatient care), an increasingly active labor market and qualification policy, the program to humanize the world of work, the further development of social insurance and its introduction the dynamic pension also qualitatively changed the welfare state structure.

The pension reform under Adenauer

With the pension reform in 1957, the pension insurance in the old federal territory was fundamentally redesigned. With the approval of the opposition SPD, the Adenauer government switched from the previous funded system to the pay-as-you-go system, which noticeably increased the pension amount (more precisely: by more than 60%) and dynamically adjusted the pensions to the gross wage development. The aim of the reform was to sustainably maintain the standard of living of the contributors according to their social position in old age. At the same time, from now on one spoke of the generation contract as a fictitious social consensus that the generations bear responsibility for one another. From a financial point of view, this means that in an economic period the employees who are subject to social insurance contributions pay for the benefits that are transferred to those who have left the labor force with their contributions that they pay into the pension insurance. As a result, they themselves acquire a right to similar services, which in turn are to be provided by the following generations.

The expansion of the welfare state under the social-liberal coalition

The next phase of expansion and growth of the welfare state was initiated at the end of the 1960s by the social-liberal government, which thus accommodated the citizens' growing demands for social participation and responded to new problems (such as the end of strong economic growth, structural change, etc.). The Labor Promotion Act of 1969, for example, provided for the addition of active labor market policy to the previously largely passive labor market policy (see Chapter: Labor market). Another important area of ​​reform was education policy, which aimed to reduce educational privileges, open up the education system, including universities, to lower social classes, and at the same time improve the level of education and productivity of the workforce (see Chapter: Education).

The beginning of the social cuts and cuts since the 1970s.

With the oil and economic crisis of 1973/74 and the following periods of economic weakness, there was a first turning point (not only) in German social policy. A policy of social cuts and cuts began, which was tightened when the Kohl government took office in 1982; However, at the same time, important benefits were expanded in the areas of family policy and child benefit, and long-term care insurance was introduced.

 
Overview of the austerity measures of the Kohl era (1990 - 98)
 
pensionMaking the early retirement scheme more flexible; Raising the age limit for old-age pension due to unemployment; Shortening of crediting times, restrictions in the area of ​​third-party pension law; Introduction of the demographic factor
healthIntroduction of cross-fund risk structure compensation; Limitation of continued payment of wages to 80%; Reductions in benefits from the health insurers and increased co-payments by patients
labour marketTime limit of unemployment assistance; Lowering the benefit rates; tightened examination of incapacity for work; Facilitation of fixed-term employment contracts and restrictions on protection against dismissal; Reinforcement of the rules of reasonableness.


The consequences of reunification

With German unification in 1990, apart from a few transitional arrangements, the socio-political institutions of the West were largely taken over unchanged in the new federal states, which meant a radical break with the social system of the GDR, which was characterized by centralism and equalization at a low level. As a result, unification-related expenditures rose in all fields of social policy, most of which were financed by social insurance. In addition, economic growth weakened significantly in the mid-1990s, which caused unemployment to rise again. Demographic change increasingly posed a new challenge for the welfare state. All of this required measures in various performance areas that were passed in various laws. In many cases, these include an increase in contributions and a reduction in services, which are often behind "technical" (such as demographic factor) and neutral terms (such as the Health Structure Act, which brought about budgeting of health services in 1992; cf. in detail Schmidt 2005: 105 ff. ).