Over the weekend Ms. Nahles insisted that without an agreement to introduce a minimum wage, her party would not be interested in forming a government with the conservatives. Germany is one of the few European countries to lack a legal minimum wage, which critics charge has allowed employers to exploit workers and contributed to a rise in income inequality since cuts to minimum benefits were introduced in 2005.
Traditionally, industry leaders have negotiated wages with trade unions, setting a minimum wage for individual branches, like chemical, construction or metal workers. Ms. Merkel praised that strategy as a cornerstone of Germany’s cherished social market economy in her regular weekend podcast.
“In recent years, the German government has introduced a sector-specific minimum wage for more than four million workers,” Ms. Merkel said.
Yet that number is roughly half of the 7.5 million Germans the Social Democrats and leading unions say earned less than the guaranteed $11.55 hourly base wage that the center-left party is seeking for workers in both the country’s former eastern states and the more affluent west.