Just as Germany's unemployment numbers dropped for the first time under the 5-million mark this year, a conservative politician has caused an uproar by proposing electronic tags to monitor the long-term jobless.
Lines at job centers remain long
Good weather this spring helped cut unemployment in Germany in April, according to data from the Federal Labor Agency in Nuremberg.
The jobless total in the eurozone's biggest economy declined to 4.968 million in this month from 5.176 million in March, taking the jobless rate down to 12.0 percent from 12.5 percent, according to the agency.
Unemployment in Germany topped the politically symbolic 5-million level in the first three months of this year, rising as high as 5.216 million in February, the highest level since World War II.
Spring a factor
Job queues usually decline in the spring as better weather allows firms in the construction sector to take on more employees.
Nevertheless, even after adjustment for seasonal factors, the German jobless total declined by 79,000 to 4.889 million in April, separate data published by the Bundesbank in Frankfurt showed. That brought the seasonally adjusted jobless rate down to 11.8 percent from 12.0 percent in March.
The head of the labor agency in Nuremberg, Frank-Jürgen Weise, explained that the unusually long winter this year had meant that the usual seasonal upturn on the labor market seen in March had been delayed until April.
The data did not therefore not signal any fundamental turnaround in the German jobless figures as economic growth remains sluggish, analysts said.
"The overall trend remains negative," Deutsche Bank economist Stefan Bielmeier told the AFP news agency.
Electronic monitor uproar
And that is why a German regional justice minister proposed fitting long-term unemployed people with electronic tags used for to monitor criminals in order to help them "get back into an ordered daily routine."
Christean Wagner, a conservative politician in the central state of Hesse, also compared people out of work for a number of years with recovering drug addicts.
Electronic monitors for jobless?
"An electronic foot shackle offers the long-term unemployed and drug addicts undergoing treatment the chance to get back into an ordered daily routine and find a job or get some training," Wagner said in a statement.
Wagner added that "many of them have got out of the habit of following normal hours and so are compromising their chances of working or getting training. Keeping an eye on them with an electronic tag could really them to help themselves."
The idea has drawn condemnation from the ruling coalition of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens with party members describing the idea as "mad" and "revolting."
The Hesse regional government has tried to distance itself from Wagner's suggestion, but the proposal could still be seen on the state's website on Thursday.