Finally, Show Time for Talent Agents: Germany Lifts Controls on Some Job Placement Services

By Kirschbaum, Erik | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

Finally, Show Time for Talent Agents: Germany Lifts Controls on Some Job Placement Services


Kirschbaum, Erik, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


BERLIN - German police stormed into Sigrid Narjes' central Munich office early one morning in 1990, rifled through her files and carted off document-filled boxes to state prosecutors.

The charge: Being an agent. Not a secret KGB agent or a neo-Nazi agent, but a talent agent.

Miss Narjes escaped a prison sentence but lost a small fortune in lawyers' fees fighting charges that began when a rival agent called police. At the time, strict German laws limited the number of talent agents nationwide to 20 - a figure that hasn't changed since World War II.

The prosecutor's case evaporated in 1994, when Germany threw out a law forbidding anyone but the Federal Labor Office and a small number of licensees to procure work for third parties.

"I was lucky that I didn't end up in jail," said Miss Narjes, whose agency for actors, writers and directors is now legal and doing well.

German talent agencies have been thriving since April 1994, when labor market controls for theatrical talent were lifted. Actors, writers and directors no longer have to consider themselves grateful to be accepted by one of the matrons who used to control the business, collect 10 percent fees and never worried about competition.

But controls on most other job placement agencies remain in Germany, where the federal government has resisted most deregulation efforts and keeps its near-monopoly on finding work for those without it.

The absence of a secondary job market is one reason why Germany's unemployment rate has crept above 10 percent despite several years of strong economic growth in the early 1990s. …

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