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Exercise in futility?

November 27, 2012

The fatalistic view that effort at school is useless is held by more than half of young Germans in lower income households, according to a new study. By comparison Swedes still believe much more in getting ahead.

Two colorfully dressed children carry out science experiments. Symbolbild Fotolia/Andrey Kiselev 40897675
Image: Fotolia/Andrey Kiselev

Germany's Allensbach demographic research institute said its comparative survey of 1,800 residents in Germany and 1,000 in Sweden showed that 55 percent of lower-income individuals in Germany younger than 30 do not believe that they can climb the social ladder through effort and merit.

And, more than a third of Germany's population is convinced that effort does not lead to success and that only their family's origin counts.

By comparison, two out of three young Swedes irrespective of social background are convinced that anyone can get ahead educationally and job-wise.

Pessimism high

Presenting the report, Allensbach director Renate Köcher said people in eastern Germany in particular expressed "status fatalism," despite the equal opportunities ethos. Only a third of them believed that effort paid off later in social advancement.  In western Germany, 47 percent believed that effort would bring gains.

The study, which was commissioned by Germany's family and equal opportunities ministry and the women's magazine Bild der Frau, highlights differences in early education. Whereas Swedes are much more relaxed about delegating childcare tasks to communal centers, in Germany the state regards parents as largely responsible for their children's education and upbringing.

Pro-business politician blames Greens

Reacting to the report on Tuesday, the leader of the pro-business liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) Philipp Rösler put the blame on Germany's ecologist center-left Greens.

"When the principle of social ascendancy through effort is discredited and economic growth is declared the work of the devil, on which especially the Greens have fundamentally vented their views, then we are on course toward decline," Rösler told the newspaper Die Welt.

"Not only in Asia, but also our European neighbors have realized this earlier than we have," he added.

Social Democrats blame 'hire and fire'

The deputy chairperson of Germany's opposition center-left Social Democrats Manuela Schwesig told the newspaper that responsibility for lack of social advancement lay with employers.

"Whoever gets good marks at school or in tertiary education but is later fobbed off with only internships or very short-term job contracts ends up believing that effort doesn't pay off," Schwesig said.

"That's why limited-term employment must again become the exception [in Germany]," she added.

ipj/mz (dpa, KNA, dapd, epd)

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