DP6415 | Reforms, Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Performance in Germany

Publication Date

10/08/2007

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Abstract

The conventional diagnosis of Germany?s poor economic performance focuses on supply-side weaknesses and the need for more vigorous reforms to make low-skill labour markets more flexible. We question this on both theoretical and empirical grounds. In an extended version of a New Keynesian model shifts in aggregate demand can move the economy along a range of constant-inflation medium-run unemployment equilibria. The evolution of the real exchange rate and the external balance help to identify whether aggregate supply or aggregate demand shifts have been dominant in accounting for changes in unemployment. We provide some prima facie evidence for Germany and the UK that aggregate demand factors have played an important role in sustaining growth in the UK and weakening it in Germany over the medium run. We show that Germany has a relatively strong record in implementing OECD recommended reforms but the expected employment effects in low-skill service sectors appear disappointing and poverty has increased. By contrast, it is in high productivity sectors including services that the German economy has performed well, especially in exports. Here labour markets are not flexible in the conventional sense: codetermination, vocational training, and coordinated wage bargaining are important. We pursue the implications of these claims for the design and political economy of reforms in Germany.