Germany's Moonlighter Economy ; Tough Times Mean Working Second Jobs

By Andreas Tzortzis Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

Germany's Moonlighter Economy ; Tough Times Mean Working Second Jobs


Andreas Tzortzis Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


He begins his day early, in slacks and a nice shirt. He ends his day late, in overalls and work boots.

At 5 a.m., Andreas Koschorrek gets ready for his morning job as a client manager for a cleaning service. After a four-hour shift, he makes a one-hour drive to nearby Potsdam, where he pulls on overalls and washes windows. The pay from both jobs totals a little over 1,200 euros (almost $1,500) a month, just enough to pay his rent and child support for his two daughters.

"It's hectic," the trained maintenance worker says of the two- job life he began a few months ago. "Every month, the money has to go to something," he says, adding that people have to work extremely hard "just to afford vacation."

Moonlighting has long been a part of economic reality in the United States. But the financial doldrums in Europe's largest economy are beginning to force Germans like Mr. Koschorrek into working two or even three jobs to stay afloat and afford some of the finer things in life.

"Certainly what has happened elsewhere hasn't gone unnoticed in Germany," says Martin Werding, at the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Munich. "There have been massive changes in standard work life. Flexible contracts, people changing professions - all this has arrived in Germany as well. In that sense [working two jobs] is a part of the picture."

A system on overload

Once Europe's economic powerhouse, Germany's form of economic socialism is being strained by the very aspects that made it attractive. Entire careers spent at one company, generous pension and healthcare plans, and ironclad job protection have proved too costly and have chased away investment, say analysts.

To rein in the welfare system and make the economy more flexible, the government - after a long and bitter fight with unions and the political opposition - passed tough economic reforms in December. Among other things, the changes loosen hiring and firing laws.

"When (this system) worked really well and people had high wages, it was fine," says Melanie Arntz, at the Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim. "But now people realize in general that there seems to be something that has to be changed, and they are in favor of the reforms and are adjusting to them by having another job."

Skilled laborers like Koschorrek are facing high unemployment rates, and even white-collar professionals are no longer guaranteed full-time employment and are looking for ways to shore up their income.

Bernard Bosil has branched out from his profession of tax adviser, working a total of three jobs now to maintain his middle- class lifestyle. "Every job is so unstable, you don't know if you're going to be working in the same place three years from now," says Mr. Bosil, a native of the Rhineland city of Krefeld.

So he started his own window-cleaning company with a client list initially made up of friends and colleagues, and cut back his hours at the tax office. He now spends 20 hours a week in the office, devotes the rest of the week to the window-cleaning business - and on the weekends tops up steins at a beer garden, the same place he worked as a student.

Bosil sees advantages to becoming more economically nimble. "It's a nice change," he says. "To just sit in the office all day is too boring, I need people around me."

To help such moonlighters along - and try to bring down unemployment rates that hover around 10 percent - Germany changed labor laws last year. …

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