- Germany's soul-searching over its high unemployment took
a bizarre turn yesterday when a minister was forced to disown his apparent
support for giving the jobless electronic tags.
- Christean Wagner, justice minister for the state of Hesse,
provoked outrage by suggesting on his website last month that electronic
tagging would offer the long-term unemployed "the chance to return
to a regulated daily schedule and be found a job".
- After newspapers were alerted last week, Mr Wagner's
office initially accused critics of malign distortion. It later blamed
"an unfortunate mis-wording", saying that the proposal should
have applied to "criminals on probation who were also unemployed or
drug addicts in therapy".
- However, his opponents said the Christian Democrat's
gaffe was typical of his patronising, not to say hostile, attitude to Germany's
almost five million jobless. One, J¸rgen Walter, said Wagner thought
"unemployed people are lazy riff-raff who don't get out of bed in
the morning and by eleven have already drunk five beers".
- Germany's unemployed have a reputation for being unwilling
to travel far for work or take low-paid or unskilled jobs. Recent measures
aimed at increasing the incentives to find work have provoked huge ill
feeling with, so far, very little success.
- The regulations have even given birth to a powerful,
if totally apocryphal, urban myth that women have been threatened with
benefit loss for refusing to work in brothels.
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.