The fact is, year after year, attractive new business locations are springing up, both within and beyond the EC, and they are competing with each other for investments and jobs. We now have to cope with these changes. We have to make up for things that were neglected in past years.
After a long discussion, the federal cabinet decided that the federal government – the preliminary work will be done by the Federal Minister of Economics – will come up with a draft that we want to introduce for discussion in the Bundestag in September. I expect this discussion to be a fruitful and lively debate about the future of our country, and by that I mean long-term future.
The aim of such a stocktaking must be to propose new approaches to finding solutions, to talk about the need to rethink things and to initiate action. From my perspective, this also doubles as an invitation to all social groups in our country to participate in this discussion by submitting their own proposals. Everyone is called upon: political parties, trade unions, business, associations, churches, whoever can and wishes to participate. I would like to add that all those who pay homage to the current zeitgeist by focusing their criticisms above all on the parties are particularly welcome to bring new ideas to the discussion.
The data and the facts are known. But we must continually repeat them, so that we know where we need to start. We are now a country with ever younger pensioners and ever older students. Our competitiveness is being jeopardized by ever shorter working lifespans and work weeks and ever longer vacations. These are the simple facts.
As much as I – like you – wish to see all of us enjoy our leisure time, it is also true that a successful industrial nation cannot be organized as a collective amusement park. Beyond all party differences, we also know that the vast majority of our citizens have long since realized this. They are willing to accept the necessary changes. We must ask in politics, in professional associations, and everywhere, if we can afford to fight old battles for vested rights and claims, since they are no longer part of today’s reality.
No matter who represents the interests of a group – that is legitimate, and I certainly will not submit to the hypocrisy of criticizing interest groups – they need to know that priorities must be redefined, that our habits need to be changed, that demands need to be cut back. By no means does this mean that our quality of life will suffer. Everyone knows that quality of life does not depend solely on whether the work week has 35, 36, or 40 hours.
(interjection from the SPD)
– I don’t know why you won’t listen to this calmly. You know this is how it is. If you were asked about these issues, then you’d have to say the very same thing in any meeting of your constituents.
It’s okay for us to have different opinions on this matter. Because of the significance of these issues, however, I ask only that over the course of the year – this is not an election year – we take time to discuss this, among other issues (of which there are plenty and we can argue enough about them), and that we determine the main tasks for the future and the conclusions will we draw from them.
More than twenty percent of the total population in Germany is already over sixty years of age. The number of people over 85 will grow to 1.5 million by the year 2000. This development had an impact on old-age provisions, and we responded with the 1992 Pension Reform Act – that was also the result of joint efforts.