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Germany Overview


Germany Deutschland, officially Federal Republic of Germany, republic (2005 est. pop. 82,431,000), 137,699 sq mi (356,733 sq km). Located in the center of Europe, it borders the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France on the west; Switzerland and Austria on the south; the Czech Republic and Poland on the east; Denmark on the north; and the Baltic Sea on the northeast. The official capital and largest city is Berlin, but many administrative functions are still carried on in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany.


History

Germany is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1949, which became the constitution of a united Germany in 1990. The federal president is the head of state but has little influence on government. The president is elected for a five−year term by a federal convention, which meets only for this purpose and consists of the Bundestag and an equal number of members elected by the state parliaments. The chancellor, elected by an absolute majority of the Bundestag for a four−year term, is the head of government. There is a bicameral Parliament. The Bundesrat, or Federal Council (the upper house), has 69 seats, with each state having three to six representatives depending on the state's population. The Bundestag, or Federal Assembly (the lower house), has 598 deputies who are elected for four years using a mixed system of proportional representation and direct voting; additional seats are added when a party wins more seats through direct voting than it would have by proportional representation alone.

Germany is divided into 16 states ( Länder ). Each state has its own constitution, legislature, and government, which can pass laws on all matters except those, such as defense, foreign affairs, and finance, that are the exclusive right of the federal government. The states are Schleswig—Holstein, Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg—West Pomerania, North Rhine—Westphalia, Saxony—Anhalt, Brandenburg, Berlin Hesse, Thuringia, SaxonyRhineland—Palatinate, Saarland, Baden—Württemberg, and Bavaria.


Economy

The former West Germany has for many years benefited from a highly skilled population that enjoys a high standard of living and an extensive social welfare program. Since unification, however, Germany has faced the economic challenge of transforming the former East Germany from a deteriorating command economy dependent on low-quality heavy industrial products to a technologically advanced market economy. Unemployment in the east has remained consistently higher than that in the west, and although several larger urban centers there have begun to revive economically, most E German industrial cities remain depressed. Since the postwar years, the German economy has emphasized management-labor consensus, which, while generally avoiding labor strife, has also created a relatively inflexible labor environment where employers are reluctant to hire more than the minimum required number of skilled workers, since it is difficult to fire them once they are hired.

Manufacturing and service industries are the dominant economic activities; agriculture accounts for about 1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and occupies about 3% of the workforce. Industries include food and beverage processing, shipbuilding, and the manufacture of iron and steel, chemicals, machinery and machine tools, motor vehicles, electronics, and textiles. Hard coal and lignite are mined. Overall, the principal German agricultural products are potatoes, wheat, barley, rye, sugar beets, cabbage, fruit, and dairy products. Large numbers of cattle, hogs, and poultry are raised. Germany is one of the world's largest exporters; products include machinery, vehicles, chemicals, foodstuffs, and various manufactures. Germany also imports machinery, vehicles, chemicals, and foodstuffs. Its main trading partners are France, the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Italy.


Climate

The weather in Germany is not as stable and predictable as it is in southern Africa. Low and high pressure systems change much quicker, due to the fact that Germany is influenced by dry continental air masses from Eastern Europe and by maritime air masses from the Atlantic. This, generally, leads to a moderate climate with good rains throughout the year. Extreme temperature lows and highs are rare. The weather varies from year to year, so rainy summers can be followed by spectacular sunshine in the next year.April — May. In April, the weather is most unpredictable in Germany. It can be sunny and warm or rainy, windy and cold. Even hail or snowshowers are possible, especially at the higher elevations.June — September. Precipitation in Germany peaks in the summer months.October — November. In October, weather can still be sunny and warm.December — March. Winters are rather mild with daytime temperatures averaging between 0 and 5°C. However, temperatures can fall far below zero, especially at night. It is — usually — colder in eastern and southern Germany and warmer in the North and in the Rhine regions. Snowfall normally occurs in December, January and February. The amount of snowfall is influenced mainly by altitude. Apart from the Alpine regions, the Bavarian Forest receives the most snow.


Culture

German culture began long before the rise of Germany as a nation-state and spanned the entire German-speaking world. From its roots, culture in Germany has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular. Historically Germany has been called Das Land der Dichter und Denker (the country of poets and thinkers).

The federated states are in charge of the cultural institutions. There are 240 subsidised theatres, hundreds of symphonic orchestras, thousands of museums, and more than 25,000 libraries spread in Germany. These cultural opportunities are enjoyed by many: there are over 91 million German museum visits every year; annually, 20 million go to theatres and operas; 3.6 million per year listen to the symphonic orchestras.


Job market

Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. The job market in Germany is generally strong and employment is high for skilled workers coming into the country, specifically in engineering, manufacturing and the IT sectors. Manufacturing is the foundation of the economy of Germany, a highly industrialised and densely populated country.

While the German-based multinational companies, such as Allianz, BMW, Siemens and Volkswagen, employ thousands of people, it is the small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that can be held accountable for the success and size of the German economy.