Temporary employment in federal ministries: state salaried, precariously employed

In the Ministry of Family Affairs, of all places, the number of temporary contracts is rising sharply. But other ministries also prefer to hire on a temporary basis.

Application at the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs. But behind the facade, things are not so family-friendly Photo: dpa

"Work for all, secure and well paid." The federal government sees itself committed to this claim – and permanently undermines it itself. As a response to an inquiry by the Left Party shows, the number of temporary positions in the federal ministries and the chancellor’s office doubled between 20. There are currently 16,530 temporary employees, a share of 6.5 percent.

The share of employees without permanent positions in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has risen particularly sharply – by a factor of six. In the portfolio of Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD), who is fighting for the compatibility of family and career, almost 90 percent of all new employees were initially only given a temporary contract last year. In addition, female employees overall (18.5 percent) are affected by temporary contracts slightly more often than male employees (15 percent).

Even in the Federal Ministry of Labor of Andrea Nahles (SPD), who is calling for precarious employment to be abolished, 60 percent of employees were only hired on fixed-term contracts in 2016. In contrast, the number of temporary hires at the CDU-led Defense Ministry more than halved from 2014 to 2016, affecting only one in five new hires.

"It would be desirable if the political goals of the SPD were also reflected in the hiring practices of the SPD-led ministries," said Jutta Krellmann, the trade union policy spokeswoman of the Left Party. "The fact that in the house of Family Minister Schwesig, of all people, the practice of fixed-term contracts is not only being pushed to the limit, but is also predominantly affecting young employees, is bitter."

A spokeswoman for Schwesig explained the increase in temporary employment with new tasks for the ministry and its subordinate authorities, such as the influx of refugees and their integration. There were no permanent positions for this, but action had to be taken quickly, she said. A significant proportion of the job increases in 2017 were used for fixed-term appointments, he said.

More trainees than positions

In the Federal Ministry of Education, too, a spokeswoman said it was planned to convert temporary positions into permanent positions after one year and to make the employees civil servants. In the house of Johanna Wanka (CDU), four out of ten new employees were hired on a fixed-term contract in 2016, twice as high a proportion as the year before. The fluctuation can be explained by a large increase in the number of positions, but also by the fact that the ministry trains more people than it needs. Graduates who are not taken on permanently are nevertheless given a temporary position to tide them over.

There can be good reasons for temporary positions – employees go on parental leave, and need to be replaced for a few months, for example . But there has been a conspicuous increase in the number of permanent fixed-term contracts. This instrument allows employers to hire new employees on a temporary basis for up to two years without justification, with the option of getting rid of them again without red tape.

The German government actually wanted to promote employment with the Part-Time and Fixed-term Employment Act. But now it is making extensive use of it. For example, the number of fixed-term contracts without substantive grounds in the Federal Ministry of the Interior has increased sixfold to over 6,000 within three years. "It is quite shameless how the state makes use of a legal possibility that it has created itself and still puts the private sector in the shade," Krellmann says.

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