chapter  6
21 Pages

Turning ideas into policies

Implementing modern Social Democratic thinking in Germany’s pension policy
ByMartin Hering

For the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the 1998-2002 legislative period was a period of transformation. Before the SPD’s landslide victory in the 1998 federal election,1 the party built a reputation as the defenders of the welfare state. During its 16 years in opposition, the Social Democrats heavily attacked the Kohl government on social issues. Continuing this tradition, the SPD fought the 1998 election as ‘the party of social justice’. But after less than a year in office, the SPD became a very different party. Gerhard Schröder, the head of the government and the new leader of the party, reoriented Social Democratic policies and programmes. Schröder strengthened the party’s competence in economic policy and focused on turning the SPD into ‘the party of fiscal discipline’. To this end, the Social Democratic government implemented major welfare state cutbacks. The chancellor made the strengthening of individual responsibility into an important objective of SPD social policy.