OECD in Comparison: Germany Well Prepared for the Future
Praise for country’s democratic practices and rule of law, as well as economic and environmental policies
Germany is better prepared for the future than many other members of the OECD. That is the conclusion reached by a study released as part of the Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI), a Bertelsmann Stiftung project that compares the 31 OECD member states in terms of their need for and ability to implement reform. According to the SGI’s Status Index, which examines quality of democracy and policy performance, Germany ranks a respectable 8th out of 31.
The countries that top the Status Index include the Nordic nations Sweden, Norway and Finland, which are followed by New Zealand, Denmark, Switzerland and Canada. Countries at the bottom of the list include Italy, Slovakia, Mexico, Greece and Turkey.
According to the international comparison, which was carried out with the assistance of some 80 globally recognized specialists, Germany’s performance has been largely positive. Above all, the researchers praised the country’s outstanding democratic practices and rule of law (6th place), its labor market (7th) and its environmental programs (5th). Categories in which the country performed less well include integration (20th), social inclusion (17th) and education (17th).
“Thanks to its social market economy, Germany has weathered the worst recession of the post-war era much better than its peers and is well positioned overall for the future,” said Dr. Gunter Thielen, chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, during the study’s presentation. “Because of its very high standards when it comes to democracy and rule of law, the country fulfills one of the key prerequisites for ensuring sustainable policymaking. The study also shows that, relatively speaking, civil society organizations and the public are proactive and quite capable of getting involved. All the same, however, the country must see to it that the public is included in policymaking processes at an earlier stage than has been the case until now.”
Germany also performed well in the areas of economic policy and jobs, taking 7th place in the labor market ranking. The number of unemployed, for example, is slightly less than before the crisis and the employment rate has passed the 70-percent mark. Unlike almost any other OECD member, Germany has made major progress in recent years in efforts to employ older workers. The study’s specialists also praised the conscientious attitudes exhibited by both industry and labor when negotiating wages. Less promising factors in this area include the persistent difficulties in helping the long-term unemployed and low-skilled workers find jobs, as well as an overall decrease in job security.
At 5th place, Germany has a leading position in the area of environmental policy. According to the researchers, fighting climate change is an issue that enjoys widespread support among the public regardless of political affiliation, and CO2 emissions have been significantly reduced in recent years as a result. At the same time, there is much room for improvement in the area of renewable energies, which still make up a very small share of total energy use compared to the country’s international peers. The consequences of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan for Germany’s energy policies were, however, not included in the findings, since they only transpired after data for the study had been collected.
Germany still lags considerably, however, on a number of economic and social issues. For example, despite financial resources having been put into social assistance programs and poverty alleviation over the past two decades, there has been an increase in social disparities and the number of people at risk of falling into poverty. Particularly worrisome is the phenomenon of child poverty, especially in several of the country’s major cities. In addition, the increase in the number of people in less secure non-full-time positions has led to a greater risk of poverty. For all of these reasons, Germany only ranks 17th in terms of social inclusion.
Germany must also improve its position (20th) in the area of integration policy as well. Immigrants and their children have less access to educational opportunities and jobs. In light of demographic shifts and the much discussed lack of highly skilled workers, the country must do more to integrate newcomers into society. More effort is also needed in the area of education (17th), where a key challenge will be reducing inequalities in educational opportunity. All too often, educational success is too dependent on socioeconomic factors such as income or parental occupation.
Complementing the Status Index, the SGI’s Management Index quantifies a country’s ability to carry out reform. Here Germany ranks 11th among its OECD peers. The country could learn from the index’s leading nations such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, especially in the areas of steering capability, strategy formation and policy implementation.