7 May 2004
BERLIN – The German parliament passed a controversial law Friday that would penalise employers who fail to hire enough apprentices.
The law will force firms with more than 10 employees who take on too few apprentices to pay into a fund which will be used to finance job training.
Industrial leaders as well as opposition parties opposed the bill drafted by the Social Democrat (SPD)-Green coalition which was passed by a 300-284 vote in the lower house.
The dispute over places for trainees has been part of a political battle over Germany’s high unemployment levels, which has been a factor in sending Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s SPD approval rating to record lows.
The law will take effect later this year if Germany’s business associations and the government fail to agree on a binding pact to promote job training under a voluntary agreement.
If by the end of September there are still too few apprenticeships on offer, companies with more than 10 staff will be fined for providing too few traineeships based on the size of their workforce.
Opposition deputies said the law would lead to jobs being destroyed rather than created, with many smaller firms in no position to offer training to young people.
However, Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn said Germany needed qualified workers. As only half the country’s firms with more than 10 employees were providing job training Germany had a problem which could lead to long-term damage to the economy.
“Qualified employees don’t fall from heaven, they have to be trained,” she said.
The government still hopes businesses will come up with a voluntary scheme by the autumn to provide more training places, she said.
“The ball is in the business world’s court,” she said.
Subject: German news