Industrial Insight

Germany exports and manufactures… | November 24, 2010

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/23/AR2010112306280.html?nav=hcmoduletmv

How Germany got it right on the economy

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

But then, Germans have something to honk about. Germany’s economy is the strongest in the world. Its trade balance – the value of its exports over its imports – is second only to China’s, which is all the more remarkable since Germany is home to just 82 million people. Its 7.5 percent unemployment rate – two percentage points below ours – is lower than at any time since right after reunification. Growth is robust, and real wages are rising.

Manufacturing still accounts for nearly a quarter of the German economy; it is just 11 percent of the British and U.S. economies (one reason the United States and Britain are struggling to boost their exports). Nor have German firms been slashing wages and off-shoring – the American way of keeping competitive – to maintain profits.

One key to Germany’s miracle is the mittelstand, as the family-owned small and mid-size manufacturing firms that dominate the economy are known.

When the downturn hit Germany in late 2008, manufacturing firms’ business declined the most, but subsidies from a government program called kurzarbeit allowed firms to keep their workers part time rather than lay them off. “Fifteen to 20 percent of our workers were on kurzarbeit,” Klaas Hubner, a former member of the German parliament and owner of the mittelstand company that includes AWS Achslagerwerk, told me.

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I'm the executive vice president for a steel casting trade association, the Steel Founders' Society of America. I've got a crazy wife, five crazy children, three crazy people that married into the family, and two crazy fun little grandsons.

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