Policy Performance


Economic Policies

With a stable, growing economy, Germany falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 4) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Germany’s economy has been growing steadily for nearly a decade. Neither rising wages nor greater government regulation have undermined export performance or employment growth. The country’s stability during the euro crisis has allowed it to benefit from extraordinarily low interest rates on government bonds.

Growth has boosted tax revenue substantially, producing several years of balanced budgets. Fears of international tax competition are growing, but have not been reflected in policy change. The strong economy has reduced the debt-to-GDP ratio significantly, though concerns over future spending commitments are rising.

Unemployment rates are at a 20-year low, aided by a comprehensive toolbox of active labor-market policies. Fears that the massive influx of refugees would push up unemployment rates have proved unfounded. The country continues to play a leading role on issues such as the European sovereign debt crisis and the push for a financial transactions tax.

Social Policies

With a well-developed welfare system, Germany receives a high overall ranking (rank 11) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has gained 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Education outcomes have improved in recent years, despite some recent setbacks in science and mathematics test scores. The country’s dual vocational-training approach has become a model for other countries, though it is also associated with below-average tertiary-attainment rates. The recently implemented minimum wage marks a shift away from purely transfer-based income support.

The mixed public and private health care system is of high quality, but cost pressures are growing. Parental-leave programs are generous. Child-care availability is a concern. Women’s employment rates have increased substantially since 2000, though many women work only part time, and fertility rates are climbing. A number of small new pension policies are increasing expenses, but strengthening the system.

While the recent years’ refugee surge has prompted considerable financial, logistical and social stresses, medium-term integration efforts appear to be on track. However, a xenophobic party has capitalized on public concerns, becoming the third-largest parliamentary group. Immigration rules have been tightened, and the topic remains a key political flash point.

Environmental Policies

As a leader in the renewable-energy sector, Germany falls into the top ranks (rank 3) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The country has launched a phase-out of nuclear power, but has balked at imposing a carbon tax to reduce the growing use of emissions-intensive coal. Instead, subsidies and public investment will promote energy efficiencies.

The country is a pioneer in wind- and solar-power technologies, as well as in energy-efficient infrastructure. However, despite considerable reductions through 2014, CO2 emissions have risen slightly in recent years, and renewables accounted for only 14.6% of primary power supply in 2016.

A goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 appears unrealistic.

Germany is an active participant in shaping international climate policy, and helped set the stage for the Paris climate agreement with its 2015 G7 presidency. The country hosted the 2017 UN climate Change Conference, and announced its ratification of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.



Quality of Democracy

Reflecting a stable system founded on the rule of law, Germany’s score for democracy quality places it in the top ranks (rank 5) internationally. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point since 2014.

Parties receive public and private funding, with some transparency concerns. The media is largely independent, with considerable diversity of ownership. New laws penalizing profit-motivated whistleblowing and allowing surveillance of foreign journalists have prompted media-freedom criticisms. Information-access laws are being increasingly actively used.

While civil rights are broadly respected, intelligence-service spying scandals have prompted serious criticism, and new anti-terror measures have expanded security-service powers. Non-discrimination laws are extensive, and same-sex marriage has been legalized. The gender-related pay gap has proved persistent.

The legal system, government and administration act predictably. Judicial review is strong, and corruption is rare. While political figures’ income-disclosure requirements have been strengthened, some loopholes remain.



Executive Capacity

Despite an increase in political tension, Germany scores relatively well (rank 11) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The domestic agenda stems largely from negotiations between the coalition-partner party leaders, with the Chancellery possessing comparatively limited independent powers. Ministries draft bills within their subject area with little Chancellery involvement, giving them leeway to pursue their own or their party’s interests. The Chancellery’s own strategic-planning group is very small.

Several RIA programs are in place, producing generally high-quality reports. Sustainability concerns are regularly reviewed. While the government routinely meets with societal stakeholders, bargaining processes are not highly institutionalized. The coalition has achieved many goals effectively, including a strong reduction in the number of incoming refugees in 2017.

Political conflicts over issues such as migration policy, exacerbated by the 2017 elections and the rise of a new right-wing populist party, have undermined the government’s communication coherence. A shift of tax revenues to the states and municipalities, along with new financial resources to support refugees, has strongly eased task-funding concerns.

Executive Accountability

Despite a few recent oversight challenges, Germany falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 6) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have sufficient resources and strong executive-oversight powers, with the latter recently reconfirmed by the courts. The Federal Court of Audit is well-funded and powerful. A parliamentary committee serving an ombuds function has limited importance.

Citizens demonstrate a low to average level of political knowledge, reflecting declining interest in political and parliamentary debates. Young people have particularly low levels of political knowledge. However, public broadcasters do offer in-depth political reporting, and their market share has stabilized in recent years. Trust in the media is relatively high by international standards.

Decisions within the main political parties are made largely by top party elites. Employers’ organizations and unions are powerful and sophisticated. Other interest groups are increasingly influential, particularly at the local level.
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