Labour market policy
Combating unemployment is among the most pressing political and social tasks there is. In order to appreciably reduce the numbers out of work, it is important not only to continue to lessen taxes and deductions but also to reduce the overregulation of the labour market. Employers and employees alike need greater freedom, more options and room to move in terms of labour law, collective-bargaining legislation and arranging their working hours. This will necessitate more flexibility in terms of protection against dismissal and with regard to fixed-term employment contracts, and also give individual businesses greater influence in determining pay levels. Other countries, in which legislation governing employment and collective bargaining is more flexible, serve as models as to how, in this way, more growth and employment momentum can be generated and unemployment lowered.
Social-security systems must also be further reformed in order to make them fit in good time to face the challenges of demographic change. Improved efficiency and more competition, a greater sense of personal responsibility and more emphasis on "capital-based" pension schemes are important starting points for further reforms.
On the labour market, the introduction of new social-security legislation ("SGB II") has seen the fulfilment of important requirements for better support and job placement for the long-term unemployed. The priority in this reform is to be - and must be - getting those who are out of work integrated into the competitive job market. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Employment and Transport sees its task as providing active, ongoing assistance to those responsible for actually implementing labour market policy on the ground.
The state government is also engaged in initiatives and programmes of its own. These schemes are geared chiefly to the competitive job market; indeed, their maxim is "the first labour market first" (with, in Germany, the term "first labour market" referring to the free market that is not financed from tax revenue). Our programmes centre mainly around the further (on-the-job) training of employees and combating youth unemployment: Lower Saxony's "Pact for Training" pools all our resources to create additional training places. With our skills-upgrading initiative for Lower Saxony ("Qualifizierungsoffensive Niedersachsen"), we are aiming to enhance educational opportunities in our federal state and ensure we have the young skilled workers that are urgently needed.