Short Time08 May 2003
The adage goes that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, while a depression is when you lose yours. By that criterion, the German economy is now one step closer to a depression.
I will probably be offered the 'opportunity' to work a 4 day week starting in June. This is not entirely voluntary, but part of the lost income may be covered by the state (un)employment office since my employer is implementing short time to avoid layoffs. (Although paying people not to work makes as little sense as paying subsidies to farmers not to plant crops.)
I'm lucky in that my family is not particularly dependent on my income, since I've allowed my wife to become a very successful career woman, and for now her job seems very secure. For most families a sudden 20% pay cut would be catastrophic. But since our first layoffs almost exactly a year ago, this kind of thing hasn't been that hard to foresee. Now that we have a workers' council, things are quite a bit more regulated (meaning the cutbacks will be made 'fairly' rather than on merit or on a whim).
Of course, the big question is whether this is just a temporary situation that will be over in a few months when business picks up, or whether it's just the latest step on the road to insolvency. Maybe I should take a another look at that article on trophy husbands.