Unemployment at 6.5m, not 5.2m: jobs chief

8th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

8 April 2005, BERLIN - The German government on Friday struggled to contain fallout after a damaging admission by the Federal Labour Office chief that the country's real jobless rate is far higher than official figures show.

8 April 2005

BERLIN - The German government on Friday struggled to contain fallout after a damaging admission by the Federal Labour Office chief that the country's real jobless rate is far higher than official figures show.

"I didn't have the courage to change the well-rehearsed ritual and name the 6.5 million figure," said Frank-Juergen Weise, head of the Federal Labour Office, according to media reports.

Germany's official jobless rate is 5.2 million, or 12.5 percent. The 'ritual', which Weise mentioned, is his monthly press conference at the Office's headquarters in Nuremberg to present official jobs data.

Weise's higher figure of 6.5 million unemployed takes into account those on state make-work projects and people who have simply stopped looking for work and are not counted in government statistics.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government sought to play down the comments which come as the German leader's Social Democrats (SPD) appear to be faltering in a bid to hold power in regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia state on 22 May.

"Naturally we know that there are people in other (jobs) programmes," said a spokeswoman for economic and labour minister Wolfgang Clement.

But the spokeswoman insisted there was a strict criterion for defining what unemployment was in Gemany: anyone working at least 15 hours a week is considered employed, even if on a state make-work project.

Chancellor Schroeder first won election in 1998 with a promise to cut unemployment in half during his first four-year term. He failed to do so but was narrowly re-elected in 2002.

Germany's unemployment rate continued to rise with the official number of jobless earlier this year reaching the highest level since January 1933 - when almost 6.1 million people were unemployed.

DPA

Subject: German news

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