After Work Is More Work Germans need several jobs to make ends meet - By Ulrike Herrmann
Labor market researchers say that more than two million working people in Germany have at least one other job on the side along with their main one. In reality, there are probably far more with multiple jobs. Many but not all, belong to the working poor.
Franziska S. has no time for a vacation. The 39-year-old Berlin resident only nets ?1,200 ($1,650) per month although she's working three separate jobs. She waits tables 26 hours a week in one of Berlin's popular Kreuzberg neighborhood cafés. She would love to take on more shifts if her employer would allow it. But he prefers many, flexible part-time workers to a steady full-time employee because that makes it easier for him to organize the shifts.
Therefore Franziska S. also takes care of an older woman. She massages the 81-year-old, cleans her apartment and goes shopping for her. Franziska S. even takes care of the woman's feet although she "finds it disgusting." She gets ?10 ($13.80) an hour - under the table. The tax authorities have no idea; otherwise the woman couldn't afford such services.
But these are just her side jobs. She is actually trained as a non-medical practitioner of alternative medicine. But Kreuzberg, where Franziska S. lives, is a poor neighborhood. There are only a very few patients who can afford such a service. If Franziska S. is lucky, she will have eight sessions a week. The money she earns with this work isn't enough for her to live off of. And her future? "It's better not to think about my social security," she says.
What has been common in the U.S. for quite some time is becoming a reality in Germany - ever increasing numbers of people must work several jobs in order to make ends meet. At the beginning of the year, the Institute for Labor Market and Career Research (IAB) in Nürnberg estimated that 2.1 million German employees have at least one other job on the side in addition to their main employment.
In reality, however, there must actually be more moonlighters. Many people like Franziska S. are working under the table, at least in part. In addition, the statistics don't include the many self-employed people who earn so little that they have to take on other work.
One of them is Karsten Müller, who works in the same café like Franziska. Actually he's an elementary school teacher but the 42-year-old preferred to be self-employed as an art dealer. His specialty is artwork from 1650 to 1850. But there are only a few customers who share his passion. Müller estimates he makes a profit of about ?400 each month. That's why he works 17 hours a week in the café, which nets him ?585 monthly.
Müller recently received an official notice about his social security payments - when he retires he can expect to receive ?250 each month. "I won't be able to survive without outside help," he said. Despite this, the art dealer and waiter doesn't want to complain. In the end, it was his decision to serve this niche market.
The IAB also notes that this increase in people working multiple jobs cannot only be seen in a negative light. In fact, it is somewhere between the extremes of an involuntary combination of several badly paid jobs to people who have voluntarily taken on additional tasks in the job they are in.
However the necessity for having a side job is increasing, as Rainer Wolf has noticed. In 1997, the 49-year-old banker started his Side Job Center (www.nebenjob.de) on the Internet. Earlier, he reports, the additional jobs were especially to help finance extras, like a person's own home or fancy vacations. "Nowadays, people need the money to simply survive," he adds.
Wolf's everyday observations are supported by official statistics. Real wages are declining in Germany. The union-employer set wage scales for employees increased only 1.2 percent in 2006. This was too little to keep up with inflation.
Furthermore, an increasing numbers of employees are finding themselves in the low-wage category. As the Institute for Work and Technology in Gelsenkirchen determined, 6.9 million workers in Germany earn less than ?10 an hour. There are increasing reports on scandals where, for example, housekeepers in hotels are getting ?2.30 per hour.
So sometimes even a full-time job is no longer enough to keep a person above the official poverty line, which for a single person is about ?650, including rent. Many working people have been forced to apply for 'supplemental unemployment payment part 2.' Right now about 1.18 million employees receive this additional governmental support, and 600,000 of them have regular jobs, as the Labor Ministery recently reported.
The high demand for side jobs lowers the wages for these jobs. "There are increasing numbers of side jobs being offered at ?6 an hour," Wolf said. That means that people with multiple jobs have to work longer hours and "the supposed side job becomes a second full-time job," he adds.
In order to help the increasing numbers of working poor, the SPD wants to introduce a statutory minimum wage in Germany. But their coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Christian Socialist Union (CDU/CSU) are firmly opposed to this. The unions, on the other hand, (demand) at least ?7.50 an hour. But, this won't help many of the people already working more than one job. Franziska S., for example, already earns ?8 as a waitress.
The adversity of low-wage employees is also being used by con men who offer dubious jobs. Apparently, a person can earn ?5,000 a month from the comfort of one's own home, according to some ads. Or casting agencies promise a modeling career - but first one must pay the agency pretty large fee.
Wolf has put up a comments section on his Internet site so that those who've been cheated can talk about their experiences. Meanwhile, for the people running the Side Job Center, the trend to a second job proved profitable. In answer to the question of how much money he himself makes with his side job, he simply says, "I can't complain."
- Ulrike Herrmann is a staff writer at the Berlin daily taz.