Willy Brandt

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Although Brandt is perhaps best known for his achievements in foreign policy, his government oversaw the implementation of a broad range of social reforms, and was known as a "Kanzler der inneren Reformen" ('Chancellor of domestic reform')[2]. According to Helmut Schmidt, Willy Brandt's domestic reform programme had accomplished more than any previous programme for a comparable period[3]. A number of liberal social reforms were instituted whilst the welfare state was significantly expanded (with total public spending on social programs nearly doubling between 1969 and 1975)[4], and by the end of the Brandt chancellorship West Germany had one of the most advanced systems of welfare in the world[5].

Amongst his achievements as chancellor were:

  • Substantial increases in social security benefits such as injury and sickness benefits[6], pensions[7], unemployment benefits[8], housing allowances[9], basic subsistence aid allowances[10], and family allowances and living allowances[11]. In the government’s first budget, sickness benefits were increased by 9.3%, pensions for war widows by 25%, pensions for the war wounded by 16%, and recruitment pensions by 5%[12]. Between 1972 and 1974, the purchasing power of pensioners increased by 19%[13].
  • Improvements in sick pay provision[14].
  • Improvements in the coverage of health provision[15], as characterised by the introduction of an expanded sickness insurance scheme, with the inclusion of preventative treatment[16].
  • The allocation of more funds towards housing, transportation, schools, and communication[17].
  • The index-linking of the income limit for compulsory sickness insurance to changes in the wage level (1970)[18].
  • The incorporation of pupils, students and children in kindergartens into the accident insurance scheme (1971)[19].
  • The Farmers’ Sickness Insurance Law (1972), which introduced compulsory sickness insurance for independent farmers, family workers in agriculture, and pensioners under the farmers’ pension scheme, medical benefits for all covered groups, and cash benefits for family workers under compulsory coverage for pension insurance[20].
  • The introduction of voluntary retirement at 63 with no deductions in the level of benefits[21].
  • The index-linking of war victim’s pensions to wage increases[22].
  • An increase in spending on research and education by nearly 300% between 1970 and 1974[23].
  • The raising of the school leaving age to 16[24].
  • The abolition of fees for higher or further education[25].
  • A considerable increase in the number of higher education institutions[26].
  • The introduction of grants for pupils from lower income groups to stay on at school[27].
  • The introduction of grants for those going into any kind of higher or further education[28].
  • The introduction of "Vergleichmieten" ('comparable rents'), a loose form of rent regulation[29].
  • A significant rise in the income limit for social housing (1971)[30].
  • Support for low-income tenants and householders[31].
  • Increases in public housing subsidies[32], as characterised by a 36% increase in the social housing budget in 1970[33] and by the introduction of a programme for the construction of 200,000 public housing units (1971)[34].
  • The establishment of a federal environmental programme (1971)[35].
  • The establishment of a women’s policy machinery at the national level (1972)[36].
  • The establishment of a Federal Environment Agency (1974) to conduct research into environmental issues and prevent pollution[37].
  • The introduction of redundancy allowances in cases of bankruptcies (1974)[38].
  • Improvements in income and work conditions for home workers[39].
  • The introduction of new provisions for the rehabilitation of severely disabled people ("Schwerbehinderte") and accident victims[40].
  • The introduction of guaranteed minimum pension benefits for all West Germans[41].
  • The introduction of fixed minimum rates for women in receipt of very low pensions, and equal treatment for war widows[42].
  • An amendment to the Labour Management Act (1971) which granted workers co-determination on the shop floor[43].
  • A new Factory Management Law (1972) which extended co-determination at the factory level[44].
  • The passing of a law in 1974 to allow for worker representation on the boards of large firms (although this change was not enacted until 1976, after alterations were made)[45].
  • The extension of accident insurance to non-working adults[46].
  • The introduction of greater legal rights for women, as exemplified by the standardisation of pensions, divorce laws, regulations governing use of surnames, and the introduction of measures to bring more women into politics[47].
  • The Town Planning Act (1971), which encouraged the preservation of historical heritage and helped open up the way to the future of many German cities[48].
  • An addition to the Basic Law which gave the Federal Government some responsibility for educational planning[49].
  • A big increase in spending on education, with educational expenses per head of the population multiplied by five[50].
  • The passing of the Severely Disabled Persons Act (1974), which obliged all employers with more than fifteen employees to ensure that 6% of their workforce was persons officially recognised as being severely disabled. Employers who failed to do so were assessed 100 DM per month for every job falling before the required quota. These compensatory payments were used to subsidise the adaptation of workplaces to the requirements of those who were severely disabled[51].
  • Amendments to the Federal Social Assistance Act (1974). “Help for the vulnerable” was renamed “help for overcoming particular social difficulties,” and the numbers of people eligible for assistance was greatly extended to include all those “whose own capabilities cannot meet the increasing demands of modern industrial society.” The intention of these amendments was to include especially such groups as discharged prisoners, drug and narcotic addicts, alcoholics, and the homeless[52].
  • The passing of a Foreign Tax Act, which limited the possibility of tax evasion[53].
  • The Urban Renewal Act (1971), which helped the states to restore their inner cities and to develop new neighbourhoods[54].
  • The lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18[55].
  • Improvements in pension provision for women and the self-employed[56].
  • The introduction of a new minimum pension for workers with at least twenty-five years’ insurance[57].
  • The Second Sickness Insurance Modification Law (1972), which linked the indexation of the income-limit for compulsory employee coverage to the development of the pension insurance contribution ceiling (75% of the ceiling), obliged employers to pay half of the contributions in the case of voluntary membership, extended the criteria for voluntary membership of employees, and introduced preventive medical check-ups for certain groups[58].
  • The Pension Reform Law (1972), which institutionalized the norm that the standard pension (of average earners with forty years of contributions) should not fall below 50% of current gross earnings[59]. The 1972 pension reforms improved eligibility conditions and benefits for nearly every subgroup of the West German population[60].
  • The introduction of a pension reform package, which incorporated an additional year of insurance for mothers[61].
  • The liberalisation of the penal code[62].
  • An increase in tax-free allowances for children, which enabled 1,000,000 families to claim an allowance for the second child, compared to 300,000 families previously[63].
  • The exemption of pensioners from paying a 2% health insurance contribution[64].
  • The Hospital Financing Law (1972), which secured the supply of hospitals and reduced the cost of hospital care, “defined the financing of hospital investment as a public responsibility, single states to issue plans for hospital development, and the federal government to bear the cost of hospital investment covered in the plans, rates for hospital care thus based on running costs alone, hospitals to ensure that public subsidies together with insurance fund payments for patients cover total costs”[65].
  • A new fund of 100 million marks for disabled children[66].
  • The granting of equal rights to illegitimate children (1970)[67].
  • A law for the creation of property for workers, under which a married worker would normally keep up to 95% of his pay, and graded tax remission for married wage-earners applied up to a wage of 48,000 marks, which indicated the economic prosperity of West Germany at that time[68].
  • The Benefit Improvement Law (1973), which made entitlement to hospital care legally binding (entitlements already enjoyed in practice), abolished time limits for hospital care, introduced entitlement to household assistance under specific conditions, and also introduced entitlement to leave of absence from work and cash benefits in the event of a child’s illness[69].
  • Increased allowances for retraining and advanced training and for refugees from East Germany[70].
  • The Seventh Modification Law (1973), which linked the indexation of farmers’ pensions to the indexation of the general pension insurance scheme[71].
  • An increase in federal grants for sport[72].
  • The Third Modification Law (1974), which extended individual entitlements to social assistance by means of higher-income limits compatible with receipt of benefits and lowered age limits for certain special benefits. Rehabilitation measures were also extended, child supplements were expressed as percentages of standard amounts and were thus indexed to their changes, and grandparents of recipients were exempted from potential liability to reimburse expenditure of social assistance carrier[73].
  • The allocation to local communities of matching grants covering 90% of infrastructure development. This led to a dramatic increase in the number of public swimming pools and other facilities of consumptive infrastructure throughout West Germany[74].
  • The attainment of a lower rate of inflation than in other industrialised countries at that time[75].
  • A rise in the standard of living, helped by the floating and revaluation of the mark[76].

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