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Made in Germany

Thomas Straubhaar

Pinstripes off, overalls on! Made in Germany is sending Germany's top economists out into the field to get their hands dirty.

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The experts are finally going to have to put their money where their mouth is. And you get to vote - Who is Germany`s "Economist of the Year"?

Episode 5: At the shipyard with Thomas Straubhaar

Thomas Straubhaar is one of Germany's best known economic experts. He heads the HWWA think tank in Hamburg, one of the country's six leading economic research institutes. Straubhaar has a reputation as a pragmatic and practice-oriented free market economist. A newspaper once summed up his basic philosophy by quoting him as saying, "Globalization is the biggest welfare programme of all times - tailor made to reducing world poverty." But globalization has blown a cold wind across Germany's shipbuilding industry. From a workforce of 75,000 in the 1970's there are now only 20,000 workers in the industry. Now a new alliance of the remaining major shipbuilders is hoping to make the ailing German industry fit to take on the global competition. One member is Blohm+Voss in Hamburg. The company builds and repairs mega-yachts, naval ships and merchant vessels. The yard's main rivals are in Asia. Globalisation support Straubhaar slips into the role of German dockyard worker, welding all day and feeling the heat of the competition from his many foreign colleagues. To make it even harder - he has to convert the German workers to his euphoric stance on globalization!

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Professor Thomas Straubhaar is giving an introductory lecture in global economics at Hamburg university. He says globalisation is a great thing. If only it wasn't so complicated.

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The following morning, Thomas Straubhaar has to leave home early. By six he is already headed for the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg harbour. Today he'll be trying his hand as a shipbuilder: "It'll be something new for me. That's why I became a professor. So I didn't have to do manual work. I wanted to earn a living with my intellect."

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For Straubhaar's new colleagues, globalisation is already part of everyday life. They constantly have to battle against cheaper competitors in Asia.

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The experts give the professor a "satisfactory" at the most for his first efforts - but he's allowed to carry on nonetheless. Here at the shipbuilder's yard, the professor gets an insight into what globalisation really means in practise.

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Today, the shipbuilders and their new trainee are working on a container ship. That doesn't happen very often here because most container ships are built in Asia. Blohm and Voss mostly builds luxury yachts and navy vessels. That's still a lucrative business.

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And here's what Thomas Straubhaar had to say about his experience:

"I think I'll stick to my old job. I wouldn't be very good at this. I'd have to learn so many new skills and at my time of life I don't think I'd be able to keep up with all these young shuipbuilders. "

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