Anne Wenders cannot be reached on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays, she does not sit at her desk in Telekom's communications department as usual, but on the edge of the bed of seriously ill children. The 49-year-old has been working part-time for many years, and for several months she has been dedicating her free hours to the children's hospice in Düsseldorf. She really enjoys her job, says Wenders. But she fulfills volunteering in a different way: "I find this feeling of being needed on an emotional level and giving something back incredibly meaningful."

Anna Sophie Kuehne

Editor in the economy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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To work less, to have more time for volunteering, hobbies or friends – that's what many people want. The part-time quota in Germany has been rising for years, and now almost one in three employees in Germany works less than full-time. In some companies, more than half of the workforce works part-time, for example in some schools.

As gratifying as a part-time job may be for the individual, this development is just as dangerous for the country. Because Germany lacks manpower. If the haircut fails, this is still manageable. But the lack of staff is now endangering climate protection, childcare and the care of the sick. Two million jobs are vacant, and more than half of all companies are unable to fill vacancies for a long time.

Coercion is out of fashion

It is paradoxical: these days mark the 20th anniversary of the announcement of Gerhard Schröder's major social reform, which became known as "Agenda 2010". At that time, unemployed people were to be forced into jobs that did not exist. Today there are vacancies, but too few workers. And compulsion has gone out of fashion. Only Markus Söder wants to restrict part-time work for teachers. It is precisely the good conditions on the labour market that lead people to work less. Once there was a part-time trap for employees, today it is more of a trap for companies. Very few companies can still afford to encourage their employees to work full-time.

And it's not just about childcare. Of the part-time working women, not even every second has a child under the age of 18. In recent decades, there has been a trend that more and more women are working part-time instead of staying at home. But this trend is gradually ebbing away, there are only a few housewives left. However, another trend towards full-time work is not discernible, the opposite is rather true. Germany's newly acquired work now comes not least from immigrants from eastern EU states.

The Germans, on the other hand, love their part-time. When the Federal Statistical Office asks the reduction workers why they do not earn money full-time, the most common answer is: "Full-time job not desired". This answer coincides more often than the reference to childcare and care for the elderly. The president of the employers' association BDA recently called for "more desire for work" and found that the Germans had forgotten "that the money must also be earned". Andrea Nahles, the head of the Federal Employment Agency, criticized in the F.A.S. the young generation and their demand for more work-life balance: They had been brought up differently, "a working person".

More prosperity – less work

As a result, it is increasingly falling out of time. Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) show that the desired working hours of Germans continue to decrease – even if they know that this is associated with salary losses. In 2000 it was 34.4 hours, in 2020 it was 32.8 hours.