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Optimizing the German Workforce

Optimizing the German Workforce: Labor Administration from Bismarck to the Economic Miracle

David Meskill
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Optimizing the German Workforce
    Book Description:

    During the twentieth century, German government and industry created a highly skilled workforce as part of an ambitious program to control and develop the country's human resources. Yet, these long-standing efforts to match as many workers as possible to skilled vocations and to establish a system of job training have received little scholarly attention, until now. The author's account of the broad support for this program challenges the standard historical accounts that focus on disagreements over the German political-economic order and points instead to an important area of consensus. These advances are explained in terms of political policies of corporatist compromise and national security as well as industry's evolving production strategies. By tracing the development of these policies over the course of a century, the author also suggests important continuities in Germany's domestic politics, even across such different regimes as Imperial, Weimar, Nazi, and post-1945 West Germany.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-812-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The German Labor Administration fits uneasily into the traditional periodization and concerns of modern German history. TheArbeitsverwaltungdemonstrated remarkable continuity and received unusually broad support in its ambition to remake the country’s workforce. Across regime changes from the end of the Kaiserreich, through the Weimar Republic and Nazi dictatorship, and into the early West German democracy, its nationwide network of several hundred local labor offices dominated the labor market. The administration claimed a de facto monopoly in job placement and vocational counseling, after its main competitors, commercial agencies and employer-run offices, were shut down in the Weimar period. Between...

  3. Chapter 1 “Organizing” the Labor Market in the Dynamic Kaiserreich
    (pp. 9-41)

    In the years before World War I, Germany’s highest authorities and major political parties made no secret of their intention to assume public control of the labor market. A Job Placement law passed unanimously by the Reichstag in 1910 decisively tilted the balance against commercial job-placement agencies and in favor of public labor offices. The Minister of the Interior explained the ultimate purpose of the law’s stipulation that private agencies would only receive a license if no adequate public office existed in the area: “This requirement will mean that in the course of time private job placement will become ever...

  4. Chapter 2 Promoting a Skilled Workforce
    (pp. 42-66)

    Maintaining order and containing political conflict by means of public “organization” of the labor market was but one strand of the German project to optimize the workforce. Another one—institutionally anchored elsewhere and inspired by different ideas—aimed to create a high-skills workforce. As with public control of the labor market, these efforts began locally. They also coalesced around a guiding vision, in this case not that of organization, but of the independent, responsible worker and citizen. And, like the steps to bring the labor market under public control, the program of creating a high-skills workforce only subsequently became the...

  5. Chapter 3 Toward Totalerfassung: Creating the National Labor Administration
    (pp. 67-107)

    Before 1914, Reich authorities had given no thought to mobilizing the country’s resources, including its workforce, for an extended war. Even during the conflict’s first two years, their steps remained extremely hesitant. From 1916 on, however, with the commitment to “total war,” Berlin began to intervene in the labor market in radical ways. These measures, their practical design and motivating spirit, did not spring ex nihilo, but rather were built on prewar trends. Nonetheless, war socialism altered those trajectories in significant ways, casting the German labor force projects of the next four decades in distinctly military

    In this chapter, we...

  6. Chapter 4 Toward the German Skills Machine: Establishing Vocational Counseling and Training
    (pp. 108-140)

    In December 1921, at just the second meeting of representatives from all of the state and provincial vocational offices, Paul Knoff , the influential head of the Brandenburg office, spared no words in his critique of the state of vocational counseling: “The numbers of extant vocational counseling and apprenticeship placement centers leave the impression that vocational counseling has already accomplished much. If one looks more closely, however, one notices that in many cases one can hardly speak of real vocational counseling.”¹ Observers of vocational training saw things almost as dimly: disagreements between labor and industry were blocking progress on a...

  7. Chapter 5 The Nazi Consolidation of the Human Economies
    (pp. 141-182)

    Within just a couple of years of German industry’s rediscovery of the skilled worker and the permanent legal establishment of the Labor Administration, economic and political tidal waves threatened to sweep them away. The Depression beginning in 1929 meant that neither companies nor individuals, for whom immediate survival was at stake, were willing to invest much in training for the long-term future. Likewise, the Labor Administration had to redirect the bulk of its resources earmarked for vocational counseling toward the simple sustenance of the growing legions of unemployed. The rise to power of the National Socialists overturned more than simply...

  8. Chapter 6 The Labor Administration in the Economic Miracle
    (pp. 183-224)

    In the summer of 1945, after the Allies had defeated and occupied Germany, few Germans could be certain about their own, or their society’s, future. The country faced even bleaker prospects than those of 1918: this second world war had come home to Germany, turning cities to rubble and destroying infrastructure and industrial capital, as the first one had not. The human losses—of killed and wounded soldiers and, for the first time, targeted civilians—had been even greater than the carnage of 1914 to 1918. Millions of homeless people, displaced or expelled from central Europe, threatened to overwhelm available...

  9. Conclusion: The Age of Organization
    (pp. 225-231)

    The familiar dates and concerns of modern German history help us little to understand the Labor Administration and its program to control and improve the German workforce. The turning points were not 1933 or 1945, but 1910, when the Law on Job Placement gave preference to neutral, public control of the labor market, and 1961, when the Labor Administration finally abjuredTotalerfassung. Other pivotal moments included 1916, when the turn to total war prompted the authorities to create the first centralized network of labor offices and greatly heightened the sense of national threat, and 1925, when German industry began to...