For better or for worse, the Germans or our “Imperial Overloads”, or whatever you wish to call them, have a considerable say on our domestic affairs. Here’s a quick overview of how the Germans treat their own people compared to how the Irish state treats us. Perhaps they may teach us a thing or two.
Health Germany has universal healthcare, which all legal residents are entitled. Only 15% have private health insurance, compared to 47% in Ireland. 32% of Irish residents have medical cards, which entitle them to a limited amount of free healthcare. Health insurance is compulsory for employment in Germany, where the employer pays half the contributions, the employee the other half. Health costs take up almost 11% of GDP in Germany, compared to 8.2% in Ireland, which is a 1% rise since the Celtic Tiger years.
Those without a medical card or private health insurance in Ireland pay €50-75 for GP visits and €120 for emergency care. In Germany, emergency care costs €10. All GP visits, including for prescriptions, are reimbursed.
Education The Germans start their primary education a six or seven years old after optional attendance at kindergarten, whereas in Ireland pupils begin at five years old. The early rising Germans usally start at 7:30am and finish at 1-2pm. After four years of primary school, pupils are divided into one of three separate schools, depending on their ability. Those who attend the top school (Gymnasium) are geared towards university, while the other schools towards vocational studies. 6% of pupils attend private school in Germany, compared to 7% of Ireland’s population. 11 out of 16 Germans states offer free third level education, compared to Ireland which is increasing entrance fees year-on-year.
Unemployment Germany’s unemployment rate currently stands at 5.8%, compared to Ireland’s 14.2%. For those on social welfare, the German system is divided between those who worked previously and those who didn’t. Those who worked previously are entitled to two-thirds of their working income. Those who havn’t come under the “Hartz IV” system, where the minimum entitlement is €350 per month. Both welfares systems are dependent on financial circumstances. In Ireland, those with sufficient tax credits are entitled to €188 per week, while €145 for those between 22-24 years of age and €100 for adults under 22 years old. Rent allowance is available in both countries.
Tax system Those on the average industrial wage in Germany can expect to pay 20-25% of their income in tax. In addition, they pay for social security benefits, like health insurance mentioned above. This along with pension contributions, old age care and unemployment benefit bring deductions close to 40-50%. Ireland’s income tax for those on the average industrial wage (€35,000) is 20.75%, an additional 7% is taken with the universal social charge. Additional contributions bring the total to in and around 30%.
Public Transport Nothing gets the Germans riled more than inefficient public transport. That’s not a stereotype, it’s 100% true.They expect an excellent service and, mostly, get it. A quick comparison between Dublin (population 1.1 million people) and Munich (population 1.3 million people) emphasises this. Munich has six underground lines, 10 S-Bahn (our equivalent DART lines) lines and an extensive bus and tram service which are all interconnected in the city centre’s main stations. Dublin has an extensive/exhausting bus network, two light rail lines which don’t connect and two DART lines. All major German cities are connected by high-speed rail and autobahns, while Ireland’s cities are only disparately connected by motorway and Ireland has no high-speed trains. Many Germans are obsessed with transport. Many newspapers even carry pages designated for information on trains services.
Political systems Both Ireland and Germany fall under the system of parliamentary republic, where the Head of state (the President) is largely a ceremonial role. Germany differs in that it is a federalist state, meaning it delegates most responsibilities of the state to the individual states. 96% of decision making in Ireland is taken by the national government. This may be expected as Germany’s population is much bigger than Ireland, but it doesn’t prevent Ireland from having a federal system. Belgium and Austria both have this system.
Many consider Ireland’s biggest political problem to be clientelism, which means TDs see themselves as there to offer favours to their constituents and not as representatives in the Irish parliament. A federalist system, or even greater local Government powers, would circumvent this.