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Agenda 2010: Redefining German Social Democracy

Pamela Camerra-Rowe

In March 2003, Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

announced a series of reforms that his government plans to undertake

in order to deal with Germany’s pressing economic problems.

These reform proposals, known as Agenda 2010, include cutting

unemployment benefits, making it easier to hire and fire workers,

reducing health insurance coverage, and raising the retirement age.

The reforms mark a change in the direction of the German Social

Democratic Party’s (SPD) economic policy. Rather than promoting

traditional social democratic values such as collective responsibility,

workers’ rights, and the expansion of state benefits, Schröder declared

that “We will have to curtail the work of the state, encourage more

individual responsibility, and require greater individual performance

from each person. Every group in the society will have to contribute

its share.”1 Despite opposition to these reforms by labor unions and

leftist members of the party, Agenda 2010 was approved by nearly 90

percent of SPD party delegates at a special party conference in June

2003.2 Several of the reforms, including health care and job protection

reforms, were passed by the legislature at the end of 2003 and

took effect on 1 January 2004.