SocialJustice in Germany
SocialJustice in German
Socialjustice is a term that originate in the idealistic discourse, but isgenerally used in both ordinary speech and social science, more oftenthan not without being clearly defined. Social justice refers to astate of affairs (ideal or actual) in which burdens and benefits ofthe society are diffused in harmony with the set principles. Socialjustice denotes the way in which norms, procedures and rules thatgovern the political and other structures of decision makingsafeguard the fundamental entitlements, rights and liberties ofindividuals in a state or groups (Young, 2013). More broadly socialjustice denotes way in which citizens are treated with respect anddignity by authority and other actors in the social setup, includingfellow human beings. Social justice needs to encompass at leastinteractive, procedural or distributive justice. In this regard,social justice is viewed as a property of the social system. Justsocial system is differentiated from the social system that exertsundue exploitation and foster unnecessary suffering, abuse,discrimination and oppression. Aspects of social justice are at theepicenter of every democratic state that pursues welfaremaximization. This paper will examine social justice in Germany andhow the nations have addressed various aspects of social justiceduring post war period.
Germanyhas undergone through different political phases that have had adifferent definition of social justice. The Weimer government thattook office after Germany humiliation and defeat in world war one wasbased on very weak principles and as such social injustice loomed allover in the public sector. Corruption was deeply buried in governmentdepartments and people lost faith in the social institution includingthe justice system. The Economic crisis of 1920s that started in theUnited States has great toll on German industries. US faced by aneconomic disaster called upon Germany to pay back its debt thatGermany had received to pay war reparation as required by theVersailles treaty. Germany was unable to pay the loan as economicproblems continue to take root, with massive unemployment on itstrail. When the Nazi party under tight control of Adolf Hitler cameto power democracy collapsed in Germany. Hitler was a dictator thatdid not believe in government serving the people. He called upon theGermans to serve the government with zeal and enthusiasm.Nonetheless, Hitler was able to bring back the economy on its feet,and unemployment reduced significantly. Through propaganda, Nazigovernment was successfully able to confuse Germans to turn againstother races, especially the Jews. Workers had to follow the order bythe governments and trade unions became impotent. Germans couldaccess education but not the other races (Grabka & Goebel, 2012).After the Second World War, East Germany followed the communists’ideology of Russia while West Germany followed democracy andcapitalism in line with American political ideology. The collapse ofBerlin wall ushered a new era for Germany and with the collapse ofU.S.S.R, the dominant political course was following ideologyembraced by other European nations and American.
SocialJustice Issues in Germany
Basedon recent studies Germany does not have an excellent record inaddressing issues such as education, poverty, income disparity andunemployment that define social justice. Among 31OECD nationsreviewed in a recent study, German ranked 15 yet it has been able toregister an average of 4% economic growth over the last one decade(Grabka & Goebel, 2012). The indicators in the study includedaccess to education, social cohesion, and equality, poverty, labormarket inclusion and intergenerational justice.
Thenation’s areas of weak points are employment, poverty eradication,and education. In Germany, educational opportunities for children arestrongly pegged on the social background. Compared to other 31 OECDnations many people in Germany have kept out of the job market formany years. Principally the most unsettling trend is the gradualincrease in the proportion of children that are living in poverty. Ina study conducted by German Institute for Economic Research (2012) itwas revealed that, in every 10 children, one is living in poverty andconsequently will not be having equal education opportunities with achild born in the background that is financial well off (Grabka &Goebel, 2012). Individuals living in poverty have skewedopportunities for social participation. In the last two decades,poverty in Germany evaluated relative to income levels have been onthe increase. Surprisingly, countries such as the Hungary andRepublic of Czech have a better score in this category than Germany.
Thecapability of a child should be the sole determiner of his or herfuture, but the German system of education sorts out the children onthe nature of their social background. 79% of children from welleducated families are able to reach the upper level as compared to43% of children from families with lower education experience.Children who are have received better and more education and are thusmore flexible have more chances of securing jobs in the labor market.Children with few academic qualifications are compelled to take lowwage job once they complete education. At this level, there is meagermaterial success and limited opportunities for professionaldevelopment. At the end of the day, it is the system of educationthat continuously and indirectly propagates income inequality. Thecoalition government has made tangible efforts in eliminating povertyin Germany, but the aspect of resources sharing and incomedisequilibrium is still a source of social injustice (Brenke, 2013).
Additionally,in spite of the fact that school students in Germany have improved inthe International PISA standing, the educational system in thecountry has grave inherent shortcomings in terms of ensuring socialjustice. It is very conspicuous that the performance of a child in aGerman school is still very much determined by the socioeconomicbackground of the students. In this regard the OECD study showed thatthe chances of students from challenging socioeconomic settings toplay a part in the social construction and reap the benefits arecomparatively lower than that of other OECD nations (Grabka &Goebel, 2012). To ensure equality in education the country needs toinvest resources in early childhood education.
Inthe post-war period, Germany has relied heavily on exports foreconomic survival. The 2008-09 global economic crisis has littleimpacts on the country’s labor market compared to other OECDstates. Even with a stronger economic structure that seemsimpenetrable to global economic shocks, from a social justiceperspective the situation does not look good at all. Numerous groupssuch as the semi-skilled and the long-term unemployed have found itincreasingly difficult to find a job opportunity. The country hasbeen impotent in preventing long-term unemployment and ranks secondlast when compared to other OECD nations (Grabka & Goebel, 2014).
Graveweaknesses also exist in the field of social equality and cohesion.In the past two decades the gap between the rich and the poor inGermany has been widening, faster than any other nation in the OECDplatform. This is one of the key factors that derail social cohesionand equality. Disparity in income between the rich and the poor isone of the key elements that highlight the stability of social unity(Grabka & Goebel, 2014). Furthermore, while Germany boasts of avery high legal standard formulated purposely to ensure and sustainequality and prevent discrimination, many individual in the countryexperience various forms of discrimination. More particularlydiscrimination is based on disability, age and gender. Many Germansstill regard immigrants as a threat rather that an opportunity.
GermanChancellor Otto Von Bismarck is credited with the buildup of themodern welfare state. Bismarck had introduced accident insurance,Medicare coverage and old age pension that formed the basis for themodern day welfare state in the world. This coverage and socialreaction were meant to forestall any form of social unrest,particularly a political uprising. The chancellor also wanted to getthe support of the working class in the country and reduce the influxof immigrants to the new world where labor wages were comparativelybetter. Bismarck also introduced high tariffs to protect domesticfirms from competition from American firms. This significantlyalienated the liberal economists that believed in a free market andcompetition, but Bismarck received immense support from firm ownersand skilled workers sold labor in such firms (Castaneda, 2012).
Todayin Germany there are two types of insurance, and all citizens arerequired by law to get coverage through either one of them. Thestatutory health insurance fund is mandatory for all working Germansand is administered in 252 public health insurance firms. About 88%of the German population is insured through this program while therest, the self employed and the wealthy, acquire coverage fromprivate insurance firms in the country. Conspicuously the unemployedhave to cater for their own coverage in the private sector(Castaneda, 2012). The rising unemployment in the country, low birthrate and rising medical cost have posed an immense challenge on thissystem, and many experts have questioned its sustainability.Contributions to statutory insurance are shared between the employerand employee. Any deficit is covered with the federal government andfunds are administered by a non-profit making body which runs underpublic supervision. University students and low-income self-employedGermans are not insured and this has significantly undermined socialjustice in the country as the incumbent government continues to lookfor ways to tackle the situation (Castaneda, 2013).
Morethan two thirds of German citizens believe that social conditionshave been increasingly inequitable in the last one decade.Additionally, many citizens say that the existing tax structure hasbeen unfair. Social justice signals a balance in opportunities butthe scenario has been far from ideal. The gap between the poor andthe rich has been widening from 1980s and government move to redressthe situation has been futile. From the year 2005 the gap hasgradually reduced owing to the flourishing labor market but thedisparity still exists (German Institute for Economic Research,2012). This reflects the barrier that is present between socialclasses, based on income levels and education. Approximately 70% ofGerman citizens in the western part of the country have succeeded inpulling themselves from the lowest income bracket. This accounted for52 percent of the population in the 1990s. Comparatively only 45% ofthe population in East German have managed to pull themselves fromthe lowest income bracket, signaling that upward mobility from thelower income bracket to the middle has been deteriorating. Theexisting barriers for the low income earners to climb the incomeladder significantly undermine the confidence of the economic orderand social justice. Greater permeability in the labor market shallaugment the confidence of the low income earners to the extent thatthey are sufficiently encouraged to invest in their qualification andhence their social development (German Institute for EconomicResearch, 2012).
Socialjustice is pegged on the idea that every member in the societydeserves equal, social, Political and economic opportunity. In mostcases, social justice is evaluated from the manner in whichgovernment handles matters of redistributive justice and allocationof resources. In modern society social justice is synonymous toeconomic equality, which means that the government is entitled tocollect income and ensure equal distribution to every member in thesociety. Germany is a capitalist economy with a democratic governmentin charge of national affairs. Social justice in Germany can betraced to late 19th century during the reign of Otto Von Bismarck.Bismarck introduced social insurance to cater for the right of Germanworkers. The nation’s areas of weak points are employment, povertyeradication, and education. In Germany, educational opportunities forchildren are strongly pegged on the social background. Compared toother 31 OECD nations many people in Germany have kept out of the jobmarket for many years. Principally the most unsettling trend is thegradual increase in the proportion of children that are living inpoverty. The system of education has continuously and indirectlypropagated income inequality. While the coalition government has madetangible efforts in eliminating poverty, income inequality, andpromoting social equality by carrying major reforms in health andeducation sector in Germany, aspects of resources sharing and incomedisequilibrium which is the main source of social injustice needs tobe addressed.
Benke,K. (2013). SharpDrop in Youth Unemployment in Germany but Regional DifferencesRemain.Retrieved from: http://ideas.repec.org/a/diw/diwdeb/2013-7-1.html
Castaneda,H. (2012).HealthInsurance System and Reform in GermanyCAGH –Working Group on HealthInsurance Reform(University of South Florida).Retrieved from:http://www.medanthro.net/research/cagh/insurancestatements/Castaneda%20%28Germany%29.pdf
Grabka,M.& Goebel, J.(2012) Reduction in Income Inequality Faltering.GermanInstitute for Economic Research,Volume 4, Issue 1. Retrieved from:http://ideas.repec.org/a/diw/diwdeb/2014-1-3.html
Young,H.W.(2013).SocialJustice and Human Nature.National Association of Scholars. Retrieved from:http://www.nas.org/articles/social_justice_and_human_nature