Roger Cohen has an interesting column touting the performance of Germany compared to the United States in the years since the onset of the crisis. He concludes by suggesting that Germany can save the United States with its ideas as to how to manage an economy and society.
While Cohen mentions several important differences between the United States and Germany, remarkably he did not mention Germany's work sharing system. Even though growth in Germany and the United States has been comparable since the beginning of the downturn, Germany has actually seen a decline in its unemployment rate of more than half a percentage point from the pre-recession level.
This is due to the fact that Germany encourages firms to reduce work hours rather than lay people off. In a standard arrangement, workers may put in 20 percent fewer hours and end up taking home 4 percent less pay. Most of the difference comes from a government unemployment benefit that is converted to a subsidy for short-time work. The company is also expected to make up some of the pay. This system is very popular across the political spectrum in Germany. It has been embraced by the conservative government although it was originally put forward by a Social Democratic minister in the previous unity government.