Andrea Nahles, who has been Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Employment Agency since 2022, hasn't had and doesn't exactly have it easy within the merciless slashing and stabbing of German politics. As a woman who was already actively involved before there was any real support for women, more tolerated than accepted. In addition, without special esprit like Annalena Baerbock, without motherly down-to-earthness like Angela Merkel, without the enthusiasm of a Claudia Roth. As party and parliamentary group leader of the SPD, she probably faced strong headwinds for this reason. From our own ranks, from our own – male – colleagues. In 2019 she resigned from these offices.
But suddenly there were voices that defended Nahles, recognized her difficult situation as a woman in politics - as a woman who does not consider it important to please. They should not be judged for their rather aloof appearance, so the demand, but for their content, their resilience and stubbornness. The group that held up the flag for the 52-year-old to the fatherly, arrogant Scholzes and Schröders of the party: young people. Millennials, Generation Y, those who grew up taking it for granted that appearances don’t matter, that women have come through decades of disadvantage and are still fighting against patriarchal structures, that they don’t accept kindness or – in the jargon of young people – "Fuckability" owe. So why, why, Andrea Nahles now turns with a derogatory sentence against the very people who stood by her at the time?
"Questions about the work-life balance have to be renegotiated, just like my generation renegotiated the distribution of work between women and men in families," said Nahles in a recent interview with the "Augsburger Allgemeine" on the future of work. "However, negotiating also means addressed to the younger generation: work is not a pony farm."
She should have known what was coming next. That a populist quote like this will be eagerly taken out of context and shared criss-cross on social media quote boards. And everyone over 40 would nod and agree, because they started their training at the age of 15 and have been toiling non-stop ever since, and it's just the way it is that you only see your wife and children a few hours in the evening after you've driven the diesel station wagon has completed the usual commute, and that you are then knocked out. is that it's actually only enough for the couch and the "Tagesschau". That's just the way it is, work as a Prussian virtue, everyone should please do it like that!
Except that this way of life no longer works today. If only because women now work on an equal footing. Because they want it - and because they have to, since a normal standard of living can usually only be achieved with two salaries. And a "normal standard of living" rarely includes owning a house and a new car these days, as it did thirty years ago.
And apart from that, the concept of "work until you drop" might not have been a good idea even then. For many millennials or young people from Generation Y, the father may not have been as present as they would have liked – which is why they want to do things differently. Men want to take parental leave on an equal footing, to be a real part of the family. Women want men to do their fair share of housework and mental load within the family. Work, come home, feet up? That's no longer the case today.
In addition, many young people saw what happened to their hard-working parents during the economic crisis of 2008, or when they turned 50 and found themselves unwanted in the labor market despite their previous achievements. So is one thanked for diligence and loyalty? So: not at all? This is one of the reasons why young people realize that a job is just a job. Something that should at best be fun and bring in enough money to live on, but is no longer necessarily seen as a status symbol or purpose in life. And certainly not as a right to exist.
That doesn't mean that young people are lazy or don't want to work anymore. They're just unwilling to see work as more than what it is: the exchange of lifetime and labor for money. Recently there was talk of "Quiet Quitting" - that more and more people only want to do work to rule. Where "work to rule" is absurdly portrayed as something negative: Why should anyone do more than what they are hired and paid to do? Isn't life too short and too precious for that?
So much for why young people are no longer willing to work unpaid overtime in start-ups with fruit baskets and pool tables. Added to this is the shortage of skilled workers, which is giving workers in this country a new sense of self-confidence. Companies will have no choice but to respond to the demands of young employees in the long term if they want to continue having good staff. And they'll probably find that a little more fairness and goodwill on their part won't kill them.
It would have been nice if Andrea Nahles had said that in her interview. If she had taken the side of clear-eyed, determined and self-confident young people who are absolutely willing to perform under the right conditions, but who know their worth. And anyway, this flat pony farm saying: If working were a pony farm, dear Mrs. Nahles, then the young people would not want to leave there anymore. So the comparison doesn't even make sense.