Were the Years 1924-29 a period of economic stability? (Weimar Republic)

Unit 5: Stresemann Years of the Weimar Republic

Economic Stability

Most Historians argue that 1924-29 were years of slow growth and "relative stagnation" in the German economy. Some suggests that the main reasons for this were that trade union power kept wages high and therefore squeezed profits and middle class income and that Weimar economy was structurally weak and generally unstable before 1929.

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Foreign Investment

Between 1924 and 1929 there was significant monetry stability, which was paticularly important to thise classes who had suffered because of the hyperinlation of 1923. The Dawes plan initiated a significant influx of foreign capital paticularly the USA. Yet such policy had its potential dangers, a downturn in the world economy could lead to the rapid withdrawl of such investment. 

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Delay of Reparation payments

The growth in avaliable capital was also due to the delaying of payments at the highest rate stipulated by the Dawes plan, thereby stimulating some inward capital investment. Yet the collapse of the econmy in 1929 is often seen as the catalyst for increasing economic discord and polarisation of employers and labour.

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Industrial Unrest

The period of 1924 to 1929 was a period of economic growth, yet the term stability us an inappropriate one to apply, in Particular with industrial relations. The main problem for many Germans was to adjust to a period of relative normality in comparison to recent years of turbulence.

·         For Employers the main issue was to claw back the initiative that they felt they had lost from 1918 to 1923. In 1923, the legislation of 1918 that enforced an 8 hour day was altered to allow employers to institute a 10 hour day in some circumstances.

·         The union demands for higher wages in this period were resisted by employers to the extent that between 1924 and 1932 around 76,000 cases were brought to arbitration. 

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A Period of Social Change? The Constitution

The foundations of the German welfare state were laid at the end of the 19th century. What made the Weimar period different was that the concept of a German welfare state was enshrined in Hugo Preuss’s constitution. These are some examples:-

·  The Family lay at the heart of Germany and it was the responsibility of adults to protect and nurture young people

 ·  Religious freedom was guaranteed

The need for an inclusive welfare state was made even greater by the impact of war. The Reich Relief Law provided the framework for support and in 1927 the labour exchanges and unemployment insurance law introduced unemployment insurance.  

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Housing and Public Health

Before the First World War the state had built public housing. By 1929 the state was spending 33 times more on housing than it had in 1913. The effect of the house building programme was to improve the quality of homes for many Germans.

Better Health insurance meant better medical provision and a reduction in deaths from certain diseases. 

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Women

The role of women and the debate about their status was an important aspect of society in Weimar Germany. The proportion of women who worked outside the home during the Weimar period remained roughly the same as before 1914.

The most obvious chance was in the growing number of women in new areas of employment such as the civil service, teaching or social work. However social attitudes to women working were generally conservative and the vast majority of women who had worked full time in so called men’s jobs during the war gave up this job when the war was over. Condemnation of the so-called Doppelverdiener (Second Earners) increased after 1924 when men were laid off. Many women were unfairly dismissed under the Law Governing the Legal Status of Female Civil Servants, yet most Germans accepted the legislation.  

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