Socialism is very German (Marx and Engels were German, not to mention a certain National Socialist -- and Bismarck made Germany the world's first welfare State in the late 19th century) -- unfortunately for Germans
Koerber is one of 145,000 Germans who fled the fatherland last year amid record postwar unemployment, pushing emigration to its highest level since 1954, Federal Statistics Office figures show. Last year was also the first since the late 1960s that emigrants outnumbered Germans returning home from living abroad, the statistics office said. Even more troubling to German officials and business leaders, many were skilled workers like Koerber. The loss of such people, they say, may threaten Germany's economic competitiveness in the future.
"Many highly qualified young people are leaving our country to seek their fortunes elsewhere, while only very few top people have been attracted to Germany in recent years,'' said Ludwig Georg Braun, president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, which represents more than 3 million companies. ``This development is causing us growing concern."
Unemployment reached 5.2 million, the highest level since World War II, in February 2005. Joblessness has declined since Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats took office last November. Still, the unemployment rate stood at 8.2 percent in June, according to internationally comparable figures published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. By the OECD's reckoning, the jobless rates in neighboring Austria and Switzerland were 4.9 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.
"People say things aren't getting better in Germany, and nothing's going to change any time soon,'' said historian Simone Eick, director of the German Emigration Center in the northern port city of Bremerhaven. Indeed, ``some indicators suggest that this may be the start of mass emigration."
For Koerber, the decision to leave was largely one of taxes. In Germany, where the highest tax bracket starts at 52,152 euros ($66,600), he would have to pay 42 percent of every euro above that level. In addition, the German value-added tax -- a kind of national sales levy -- is 16 percent, which is scheduled to rise three percentage points next year. ``I only get 25 percent deducted from my salary and that includes everything,'' said Koerber of his pay packet in Canada. ``And I'm in the highest tax bracket!'' The goods and services tax in Alberta is 6 percent, cut from 7 percent in July, he said.
Other German expatriates cite what they say is the over- regimentation of the labor force. ``Life in Germany is totally over-regulated,'' said Christian Kaestner, 38, an attorney who moved from Munich to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1997. ``There are hardly any freedoms left, and you keep bumping into regulations and prohibitions.''
Today's emigrants are likely to choose Canada, New Zealand and Australia, or, within Europe, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. An estimated 2,300 German doctors are working in Switzerland, more than 8 percent of the Swiss total, said the Bern-based FMH Swiss Medical Association. Taking into account gross pay, taxes, insurance and the cost of living, doctors make more money in Switzerland, said Matthias Dettmer, 31, an assistant pathologist in Zurich from the southern German city of Tuebingen. He makes more than double his former colleagues in Germany, who earn what he calls a ``cleaner's pay.''
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