German Cabinet Approves National Minimum WageSociety | April 2, 2014, Wednesday // 13:21| views
A composite picture of Sigmar Gabriel (L), chairman of Social Democrats and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R). The minimum wage bill was one of the strings attached to forming a "broad coalition" of Merkel's conservatives and Gabriel's socialists back i
Germany's cabinet has approved a bill setting a minimum wage in the country.
A fixed national threshold of EUR 8.50 per hour is due to be fully in force from 2017, with partial introduction as early as January 1, 2015, DPA news agency has reported.
The measures will not be applied to citizens who find a job after having been "permanently unemployed" for a long time.
In their case, no threshold is guaranteed for the first six months.
People under 18 years of age, those with no proper academic or professional education, and participants in job preparation training programs (which are part of Germany's education system) are also to be excluded.
The bill has yet to be further elaborated, but Germany's Focus Online reports it could be complete before summer holidays.
On Wednesday, short after the government's announcement, the project had already drawn harsh criticism over potential "loopholes".
Frank Birske, chair of a prominent trade union, described the measure as "devoid of sense", saying that people who formerly were long unemployed should not be discriminated against.
This "exception" was however backed by both Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and its coalition partners from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
Opposition MP Katja Kipping from Die Linke party argued the bill as it is would not comply with German constitution and the government should have waited for the Constitutional Court to give its opinion on the issue.
Estimates quoted by the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung suggest about 1 million Germans are currently "permanently unemployed".
Germany's CDU has long feared the introduction of a minimum wage threshold, arguing it could harm competitiveness and lead small and medium enterprises into financial trouble.
The legislation was however one of the conditions on which the coalition between socialists and conservatives was forged last autumn.