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Easing Germany's Jobless Misery Through Soccer

Christian Erber (jdk)October 29, 2005

The Federal Labor Agency is looking to the World Cup in 2006 to help reduce the ranks of the unemployed. Together with the German Soccer Federation, a new initiative has been kicked off to get the ball rolling.

Mascot Goleo is one who has found work through the World CupImage: AP

"We have five million jobless people in Germany -- the DFB (German Soccer Federation) mustn't close its eyes to such a development," said DFB managing director Theo Zwanziger when he, along with Federal Labor Agency (BA) board member Heinrich Alt, kicked off a job initiative that is supposed to help up to 100,000 unemployed find work through next year's World Cup.

It's a mantra that has been reiterated time and again before any large sporting or cultural spectacle. When a country or city competes for large international events such as the Olympics, the soccer World Cup, or the World's Fair, not only is the sole attraction of the happening a selling point. Frequently, politicians and big business promise huge bonuses for the location: Tourists with money to spend, improved infrastructure -- and jobs.

Next year's World Cup in Germany is no different. Matches will be played in 12 cities and the grounds where they will take place must be top notch. New stadiums have been built, older ones renovated. The construction industry has capitalized and will continue to do so. Next June and July, some one million spectators must be fed and housed bringing big benefits to the hotel and gastronomy industry.

Hotline for potential employers

Beschäftigungsoffensive WM 2006 Theo Zwanziger, links, Geschaeftsfuehrender DFB-Praesident, und Heinrich Alt, rechts,
Theo Zwanziger (l) of the DFB and Heirnich Alt from the Employment Agency talk jobs and World CupImage: AP

In the face of Germany's gloomy economic perspective, particularly on the job market, the labor agency and business groups don't want the world's largest sporting event to be just a one-time thing. So, under the title "An employment affair -- the fastest way to the right employer," the project aims for between 50,000 to 100,000 jobs to be created.

The labor agency has established a telephone hotline in Frankfurt to take calls from employers who are looking for workers in the run-up to the tournament. Within 48 hours of an employer's call to the BA, the agency is supposed to provide a list of possible job candidates.

Companies from World Cup cities are already taking advantage of the hotline. An event organizer in Leipzig needs 400 workers. In Hamburg, a temporary job agency has announced positions for 20 cooks. A security service in Kaiserslautern is looking for 500 guards.

Long-term perspectives for a few

What I hear from the Chambers of Industry and Commerce in Frankfurt, they predict 1,000 jobs with long-term perspectives," said Alt. "If I take that and multiply if by 12 for each World Cup city, that's 12,000 new jobs."

Baustelle Fußballstadion Allianz Arena in München
The construction of stadiums, here the Allianz Arena, has provided work for thousands in GermanyImage: AP

For those 12,000, that's a piece of good news. And it won't only be lower paying jobs such as kitchen help, janitorial duties or security services. Also experts for IT services or even translators will be sought after. And if the work should not result in a full-time position, nearly everyone has been quick to mention the positive aspects of the short-term engagement.

"Even if many receive just temporary contracts, many will get their foot in the door of a company through the World Cup," said Katja Hartmann, a spokeswoman for Manpower, one of the world's largest private employment agencies.

DFB president Zwanziger said that the sport of soccer and its players must not close their eyes to the plight of those going through difficult times caused by unemployment. Because of the World Cup, many will find work, if for just the short or middle term, but even that would be a success and give "a number of people a little more reason to hope."