Can democracy help with inequality

Social inequality : Democracy is in danger

Since the PISA shock 2000 it has been known that there is no other OECD country in which social origin determines educational and thus labor market opportunities as much as Germany. It is therefore surprising that it does not play a major role in the diversity concepts of many companies.

This may be due to the inadequate personal and social data and the lack of legal pressure to act. Furthermore, it can be assumed that social origin is a rather uncomfortable topic, as it focuses on power hierarchies.

Elite research indicates that the top management levels are not only primarily male, white and West German. In some sectors, elites are also very strongly recruited from middle-class to upper-class circles.

Organizations like the OECD warn of the threat to social cohesion from growing social inequality. The richest 10 percent in Germany are significantly richer than in most other OECD countries. You have 60 percent of the assets.

At the same time, increasing income inequality and a divided labor market with more than seven million precariously employed people are weakening society's ability to integrate and trust in the political system, according to the authors of the OECD.

Social inequality is the greatest threat to democracy

In the past 20 years, the wage gap in Germany has widened relatively more than in the USA or Great Britain. The main reason is the lower collective bargaining coverage, according to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Democracy researchers such as Wolfgang Merkel from the Berlin Social Science Center or Oliver Nachtwey from the University of Basel see growing social inequality as the greatest threat to democracy, as more and more people feel excluded from central areas of society and many are withdrawing from the political system.

At the same time, social insecurity has spread massively, which also means that privileges are aggressively defended or kicked down. Right-wing populism cleverly steers growing discontent onto scapegoats. Refugees, Muslims, Jews and other social groups become projection surfaces for their own insecurities.

Gender bashing and homophobia are also part of the arsenal. The diversity of our society has become the prism of more fundamental debates in the context of growing social inequality.

Companies have to support the socially disadvantaged

It is therefore important that companies promote social equilibrium more than before and that they pay more attention to social origins. Some companies are already active here, such as Berliner Stadtreinigung: It offers career preparation and social measures and, like FedEx Express, supports the Arbeiterkind.de initiative, which encourages students from families with no university experience to study.

Other companies work specifically with schools and universities that are trying to attract and promote more pupils and students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Or they consciously advertise themselves as employers and trainers in socially weaker areas.

Only if the economy, politics and society succeed in shaping the dynamic changes of our time, the three D's of the megatrends “Demography - Digitization - Diversity” in connection with the fourth D, democracy and social cohesion, will the foundations of our coexistence be established and working together in a healthy manner in the medium term.
Andreas Merx is chairman of the International Society for Diversity Management (idm e.V.)

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