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Losing Sleep, Embarrassed? It’s Part of Being Jobless in Germany

June 17, 1993

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Mike Rosendahl can’t sleep at night, and Monika S. is too embarrassed to give her full name. They have never met before, but have a mutual problem - jobless in affluent Germany.

They’re not alone. Officials in Brussels gave a gloomy outlook Wednesday for employment in the European Community, predicting joblessness will rise to 12 percent next year.

The EC also predicted the German economy would shrink by 2 percent this year.

The changes are coming as a shock in a nation known for its strong work ethic and, historically, low unemployment.

Monika S. and Rosendahl are among 2.1 million unemployed in western Germany, which had a jobless rate of 7.8 percent in May. In the struggling eastern states it’s 15.1 percent with nearly 1.1 million people out of work.

Added to that, Economics Minister Guenter Rexrodt predicts that 700,000 more people will lose their jobs this year as more companies seek cheap labor in Asia and eastern Europe.

″Tell me about it,″ Rosendahl groaned. ″I’ve been looking for a new job since 1991 when the company I worked for went out of business.″

Rosendahl, a former U.S. Army major who got out of the service in 1964 to remain in Germany with his German wife, worked as an export sales manager for a printing company in Frankfurt.

He spoke with a reporter at the unemployment office in Frankfurt, where he must show up once a month just to let them know if his status has changed.

″I try not to get frustrated, but I’m nervous and I can’t sleep at night. Everybody needs to be productive,″ says the 62-year-old Rosendahl, who took German citizenship six years ago.

He said he used to make $75,000 a year but now gets $690 a month in jobless aid. He knows his age works against him.

A more typical example is Monika S., a 48-year-old legal secretary who’s been looking for a new job since February.

″It’s embarrassing. I won’t talk to you if you use my name,″ she said, then relented and said ″You can use Monika S.″

Monika hates being on the dole, saying she’s ashamed to let her neighbors know. When a reporter suggested a picture be taken she shouted ″No, never 3/8″

She said she had submitted 75 job applications and all answers were negative.

″Most companies are looking for someone not over 35 with 20 years’ experience,″ Monika said, her voice filled with sarcasm. ″I’m too expensive.″

She said she was making about $3,900 a month as a top secretary when she was laid off by a law firm.

″Maybe I’ll work as a cleaning lady. I have to do something,″ she said.

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