This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
BBC Learning English Launch BBC Media Player
  • Help
  • Text only
You are in:Learning English > News English > Words in the News
Learning English - Words in the News
04 February, 2005 - Published 14:18 GMT
Five million Germans out of work
Job centre in Germany

Five million people are unemployed in Germany, according to the latest official statistics. But the government says economic reforms implemented last month will bring the numbers down. This report from Mark Gregory:

Listen to the story

Unemployment is a deeply sensitive political issue for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Back in 1998 he was elected for his first term on a promise that the jobless count would be brought down to three and half million.

He failed to deliver on that and now the official unemployment figure is above five million, the first time since the great depression of the 1930s, which brought the Nazis to power. And to make matters worse, the official figures may greatly understate the real extent of the problem. Once those on government training schemes and the like are included the actual number of people looking for work could be as high as nine million.

The German economy has yet to fully recover from the boom and bust that followed reunification a decade ago; and German firms with their high wage and social costs have struggled in an increasingly globalised world economy, where work has shifted to new manufacturing centres such as China.

But, despite the latest unemployment figures, there are some recent signs of economic improvement in what is still by far Europe’s largest economy. Consumers are spending more in the shops, a sign they're more confident about the future. Meanwhile businesses are more optimistic than they were a couple of years ago. Welfare benefits have been hacked back. Companies have been re-organised to cut costs.

It's been a painful process but economists say it's beginning to produce results. The German economy is growing again, albeit slowly, and is seen as one of the more robust in the European Union.

Mark Gregory, BBC, London

Listen to the words

brought down

failed to deliver on
did not achieve what was expected

to describe something in a way that make it seem less serious than it really is

and the like
and something or someone similar


when a country that was temporarily divided into smaller countries is joined together again as one country

hopeful, believe that good things will happen in the future

hacked back
cut back severely



Other Stories