Chancellor at the 2018 employers' annual meeting

"Get people on board"

Shaping digital transformation and achieving comparable living conditions throughout Germany – these were the goals of her policies that Chancellor Angela Merkel focused on in a speech at this year’s annual meeting of the BDA, the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations. There are many things that cannot be achieved by politics alone, she said. The support of the private sector is vital.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the annual meeting of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel at the annual meeting of the employers' confederation; one important issue was the planned Skilled Workers Immigration Act

Photo: Bundesregierung/Steins

Social cohesion is very important to her, stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in Berlin. Although Germany’s economy is robust, the living conditions and the concerns of the people in Germany vary widely. Her goal, she said, is to achieve comparable living conditions across the country.

Differences can be seen, for instance, on the housing market, said Angela Merkel. In large towns and cities, rents are extremely high and housing is in short supply, while in rural regions many homes stand empty. The elderly often remain alone in these regions, because the younger generations leave for the cities. "This is a source of concern for people," said Angela Merkel. More housing must be created, more land designated as construction land and houses must be put up faster.

Taking people as the starting point for digitalisation

The Chancellor described the digital transformation as "unsettling and very difficult for people to grasp". She said how grateful she is to have the newly founded Digital Council at her side. "It is familiarising the German government in a succinct manner with the challenges posed by digitalisation." The political level must, however, ensure that the people are on board and that "people are taken as the starting point for digitalisation". The Chancellor called on employers to support their employees by providing regular advanced training.

It will also be impossible to attract new skilled workers without the support of the private sector, she said. Angela Merkel thanked business representatives for their pledge to help ensure the unbureaucratic implementation of the new immigration law for skilled workers. 

Digital infrastructure must be expanded swiftly

Germany, she said, is on the right road when it comes to expanding the country’s digital infrastructure. By the end of 2019, 98 per cent of all households will be connected up to broadband. What is now needed, said Angela Merkel, is to roll out fast internet connections across the entire country. For this, however, a minimum of 10,000 new masts will have to be erected, and that is a major challenge. She added, "We don’t need to provide the entire country with 5G immediately. We have a bit of time for that." Many of the 5G applications are not yet fully developed, she explained.

An orderly Brexit is vital

With a view to Europe, Angela Merkel promised that she would continue to work for an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. A ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit would be the worst possible option, both for business and for "the psychology of our future relations" warned the Chancellor. Even if a great deal of discussion is still needed, she will "do everything in her power to ensure that we have an agreement". Now it is a question of ensuring that the remaining EU member states stick together in negotiations.

The BDA, the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, the leading representative of German employers on labour and social policy matters, meets once a year. The meeting is attended by some 1,500 representatives of the realms of politics, business and civil society. The central role of the BDA is to represent the entrepreneurial interests of members in the field of social policy.