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The German word Beamter (female: Beamtin or Beamte, plural: Beamte) means civil servant, and is pronounced [bəˈʔamtɐ], with a glottal stop between the 'e' and the 'a'. This English translation may be ambiguous, as German law puts public servants into two distinct classes, namely on one hand ordinary public employees (Angestellte), which are generally subject to the same body of laws and regulations as the employees of private enterprises, and on the other hand the Beamte with their own, special body of laws and regulations covering their conduct. German law thus makes a distinction that does not exist in most other national bodies of law.
The original idea was developed as part of the "enlightened monarchical rule" as practiced in 18th century Prussia and other German states. These states did not accept "radical" concepts such as democracy or popular sovereignty, but they did struggle to professionalize their public service and to reduce corruption and favoritism. The idea was that whoever represents the state by doing official duties that only the state may legally provide (hoheitliche Aufgaben), such as issuing official documents, teaching state-approved curricula to students, preaching in state-approved churches, wielding lethal power in the name of the state, or making any other kind of official decisions, should have a special kind of employment with the state - an employment marked by a higher-than-normal degree of loyalty. Ideally, that loyalty works in both directions, with the Beamte having a special duty of serving (Dienstpflicht) that goes beyond the merely economic self-interest of the salaried worker, and the state having a special duty of seeing to their welfare (Fürsorgepflicht) that likewise goes beyond what would be expected of a commercial employer.
While soldiers and judges are not considered Beamte in Germany, many of the same rules apply to them. However, unlike Beamte, judges cannot be given orders by the state, to preserve judicial independence. Also, unlike Beamte, soldiers cannot be ordered to do anything unrelated to the defense against foreign enemies (with the exception of peacefully providing aid in specific emergency situations), to preserve the civilian nature of the German government.
Today, such functions, with the exception of those that include wielding lethal force, are often executed by non-Beamte even in Germany, which means that the position of Beamte is distinguished by the supposed advantages that it confers. These include a special health plan, the Beihilfe, which covers 50% of most health care expenses, the other part being the responsibility of the Beamter himself and usually being covered by buying private ensurance; an index-linked pension of at most 71.5% of the last salary, paid directly by the state rather than by the usual public pension insurance; and most importantly, the virtual impossibility of losing one's job - basically, the state may transfer Beamte who do not perform well to other, often less desirable, posts, but may only terminate employment entirely in cases of serious felonies.
Compared to other employees, Beamte have to pay no payroll taxes, only income tax (but they have to pay income tax even after retirement, while pensions from the public pension insurance are not so taxed) and their private health insurance; after retirement at the age of 65 - in the future it will be at 67 - Beihilfe rises to 70%. Beamte may not participate in the semi-public health insurance associations that cover most of the ordinary German employees (both public and private), which are required by law to cover families for the same price as singles. Thus, every spouse and dependent child of a Beamter has to be insured individually through private insurance, but they also receive Beihilfe.
One notable disadvantage is that Beamte, unlike all other public or private employees, lack the right to strike and cannot easily quit their jobs. Furthermore, their salary and working week are determined by law, rather than by negotiations between employers and unions. As a result, the usual working week for ordinary public employees is 38.5 hours whereas for Beamte it is now 40 to 42 hours. In 2004, the yearly holiday pay was cut to zero and the Christmas bonus by 40%. In some federal states the Christmas bonus was abolished completely in 2002, for example in Saxony-Anhalt. Another not insignificant disadvantage is that many Beamte, but most infamously teachers, have a status that is resented by other employees in both private and public sectors. Furthermore Beamte have less rights to do political work. Some people believe that once Beamtenstatus is conferred, civil servants lack further professional motivation to the detriment of those they are appointed to serve.
A prospective Beamter must be a national of the Federal Republic of Germany, and must achieve the status by the age of 35. There are 4 professional tracks for Beamte, depending on their education:
One does not become a Beamter by signing a contract, but rather by receiving a diploma of appointment ("Ernennungsurkunde"); the new Beamter's first task is to swear an oath to uphold the federal constitution (Grundgesetz) and that of the federal state in case he or she is employed by it and not by federal agencies. Without this oath, nobody may become a Beamter. The three steps in becoming a German Beamter:
Mind that whether an applicant undergoes Step 1, 2, or 3, they are nevertheless always Beamte, although first in preparation, then on probation and then fully employed.
The status of Beamter is enjoyed by the staff of public authorities and civil services, but also by policemen, soldiers and officers, most teachers and other professionals in public service, and by holders of political offices such as mayors, ministers, etc. However, for holders of political offices the status of Beamter is not permanent and is only applicable for their period in office. Also, teachers in the territories of the former West Germany are still commonly Beamte, but not in the former East Germany.
Formerly, this status used to be bestowed more liberally, and, as it cannot be taken away, there are still many Beamte amongst older people working for the German post office (Deutsche Post), the railway (Deutsche Bahn), Deutsche Telekom and other public utility companies, many of which are now state-owned or even partially privatized corporations rather than parts of the state bureaucracy as such. However, nobody starting work for these corporations today will be made a Beamter. The staff of an average local authority in Germany is split into one-third who are Beamte, mostly in higher administrative positions, and two-thirds who are ordinary employees working as service people or elsewhere. The police and others in security related public employment are virtually 99.9% Beamte, since according to German legal thinking, mere employees - without the special kind of loyalty to the laws and the constitution that are required of a Beamter - may not serve in positions that could require a person to abridge other people's basic rights, such as life and liberty, in the course of their duties.
Privatizations and reductions in the number of established posts have reduced the number of Beamte: Since 1991 the number of Beamte has fallen by 1.4 million to c. 3.9 million. This means that reunited Germany today has fewer Beamte than the old Federal Republic of Germany before (figures as at January 2007).
All Beamte were paid according to the Bundesbesoldungsgesetz (Federal Pay Act), regardless of where they are employed (Federal Government, 16 federal states, communities or even Churches). This changed, giving the 16 federal states the option to vary salaries, depending on whether they are "rich" or "poor" ("Rich" states are Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg or Hesse, and "poor" ones include most of the eastern states, such as Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin). This is the so-called "North-South divide" in Germany. However, the Federal Government still keeps a close eye on the respective "Landesbesoldungsgesetze", as they may only differ up to 5% compared to the Federal Salary Scheme. Furthermore, as of 2011[update] no Land had taken up the offer to make any significant alterations to the pay of their civil servants.
In Germany, Beamte have permanent tenure, i.e. they cannot normally be dismissed, and receive some so-called social security privileges and are usually rewarded more highly than others. In addition, they are exempt from all other contributions such as pension or unemployment insurance schemes. Dismissal is possible for lengthy illness, i.e. three months within half a year. It is also possible to dismiss the Beamter during the probation period. After the probation period Beamte can be retired and given a pension on the basis of the years of service., e.g. for 25 years of service the figure is 44.84 per cent minus 3.6 per cent for each year remaining until the normal retiring age. The maximum for these deductions is 10.8 per cent of the last salary. If it is advantageous to them, the person retiring receives a minimum pension, which is 65 percent of Besoldungsgruppe A 4 BBesG (On 1 January 2003 : 1,174.81 EUR pre-tax, less deductions for taxation and contributions to private medical insurance). Another privilege is that the employer is required to care for the health and well-being of each of its current and retired civil servants.
In the new Länder which constituted the former East Germany, most teachers are not Beamte, excepting head teachers and some specialists (lecturers teaching at schools providing vocational education or at grammar schools). Compared to other employees, civil servants only have to pay taxes (even, when they are retired, up to death and afterwards widows and children too, so long as they are receiving state provision) and regularly 50% (after retirement at the age of 65 - in future at the age of 67 - 70%) of their private health insurance up to death. Every child must be insured individually maximally up to their 25th year (e.g. if studying, if not, then earlier, regularly apprenticeship lasts 2½ – 3 years).
"Normal" employees, workers, etc. also have to pay money to the retirement office, the full health insurance but receive a subsidy for this of over 50% from the state, plus unemployment insurance schemes, etc. They had to pay quite moderate amounts of taxes after their retirement, but this changed and will have to be endured for the upcoming twenty-six years[clarification needed]. After retirement the employee does not have to pay health insurance or taxes.
In general it is not possible to compare the retirement benefits and the salaries of Beamte and employees since they are completely different systems. Certain parameters must be considered.
Lower service (rare)
Upper service at the police (police officer)
Annotation: The asterisk* signals that there are two possible ways of PTs, i.e. either Oberregierungsrat or Regierungsoberrat, which do not differ from one another, although the latter is now preferred in some regions, whereas the former remains a more "classical" option.
Annotation: The asterisk* signals that each Ministry have at least a Beamter-Staatssekretär and a parliamentary secretary of state, the last one is not a Beamter, in their employ, the last one of which gets slightly lower wages and has different duties. A regularly installed state secretary is the senior representative of a Minister.
Annotation:The last three "groups" are not Beamte, according to the definition one refers to.
(concerning schemes C and W, please see below)
Annotation: Salary Orders B,C,W and R all belong to the Senior Service; the B-offices follow the ones of order A. Salary Order B is somewhat complicated due to the following principle:
Some titles can roughly be compared to offices held by British or other civil servants.
|Scheme||Grade||Office name/term||Examples (Abbr. only for internal usage)||Civil service career law|
|A||6||Oberamtsmeister Erster Klasse|
|A||6||Sekretär||Regierungssekretär (RS)||Middle Service|
|A||7||Meister, Obersekretär||Polizeimeister (PM)|
|A||8||Obermeister, Hauptsekretär||Regierungshauptsekretär (RHS)|
|A||9||Hauptmeister, Amtsinspektor||Brandhauptmeister (BHM)|
|A||9+Z||Amtsinspektor mit Amtszulage||Regierungsamtsinpektor (RAI)|
|A||9||Inspektor, Kommissar||Regierungsinspektor||Upper service|
|A||10||Oberinspektor, Oberkommissar||Zolloberinspektor (ZOI)|
|A||11||Amtmann, Hauptkommissar||Regierungsamtsmann (RA)|
|A||12||Amtsrat, Hauptkommissar A12||Kriminalhauptkommissar (KHK)|
|A||13||Oberamtsrat, Erster Hauptkommissar||Regierungsoberamtsrat (ROAR)|
|A||13||Rat||Regierungsrat (RR)||Senior Service|
|A||16||Leitender Direktor, Oberdirektor, Ministerialrat)||Leitender Regierungsdirektor (LRD/LtdRD)|
Ich schwöre, das Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und alle in der Bundesrepublik geltenden Gesetze zu wahren und meine Amtspflichten gewissenhaft zu erfüllen.The oath can be sworn both with or without the religious annotation: So wahr mir Gott helfe at the end.
I promise herewith to uphold and adhere to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany and all other laws valid within its territory and to fulfil my duties with all my might. The oath can be sworn both with or without the religious annotation: So wahr mir Gott helfe:'so help me God!' at the end.
Although officially not having the status of Beamte, Richter (judges) and Soldaten (soldiers) have similar rights and duties to "ordinary" Beamte. For one thing, they are also paid according to the Bundesbesoldungsgesetz — soldiers according to Orders A and B and judges according to Order R, like public prosecutors (The last ones are, nevertheless, Beamte, the soldiers and judges not). Furthermore, they practically cannot be dismissed and have the same financial income. Soldiers and judges are also expected to swear an oath on the Constitution (cf. below).
Judges are not Beamte, although they were until the mid-1950s. Until then, judges were paid according to Order A as well, and usually had the titles "Justiz-" or "Gerichtsrat". However, officials represent the executive branch of government, but judges are independent from the state, they only depend on the law. - Another conflict of interest continually arising while judges were Beamte was not only the repeated interruptions made by federal offices; Beamte have a duty to obey direct orders from a superior, which is incompatible with an independent justice system.
Beamten suffer from an image problem within Germany, with a study conducted by the German Civil Service Federation (DBB) stating that 61% of the German population held Beamten to be "lazy, lethargic, inflexible, stubborn or corrupt". Other common points of contention among the German public are that Beamten are paid excessive salaries and cannot be removed from their positions for any other reason than engaging in a criminal act or being unable to work.
||This article may be confusing or unclear to readers. (January 2007)|
It is necessary to bear in mind that teachers comprise only a small percentage of the total number of 'Beamte' and are not typical of Beamte in general. Teachers' salaries in Germany in particular compare very well with those in the USA, Great Britain and other countries. It is widely supposed that American teachers are quite badly paid, at least primary school teachers, who earn an average of $25,000 (2007). In England, teachers' salaries range from c.£20 000 to c.£48 000. However, the states where teachers get most are Germany, Switzerland and South Korea.
In Germany, salaries range from a minimum of $46 000 to $135 000 (before taxation and contributions to private medical insurance) and according to the office, career and age of service held by the respective official. Only head teachers of grammar schools can attain the highest level of remuneration (see below). German teachers are almost all "Beamte" of the Upper or Senior Service. Teachers are Beamte of the 16 federal states that require a university degree comparable to a BA, BSc. or other. Grammar school teachers need a (at least two) MA, MSc. or comparable degree.
There are three different types of secondary school, the Gymnasium (grammar school, leading to university entrance), the Realschule (technical school) and the Hauptschule (basic secondary school) and their teachers are remunerated accordingly. (In some states, the Realschulen and Hauptschulen are being combined.) The Hauptschule is not often considered as being much above the level of primary education and most teachers are paid according to A12, lower than in a Gymnasium where nearly all teachers easily achieve A13, significantly higher in terms of remuneration. This creates great resentment because of the perceived lower status of the Hauptschule teachers, who, although not teaching their subjects to such a high level, nevertheless have to work more pedagogically with less motivated pupils and in more challenging social circumstances. After the first Staatsexamen, trainee teachers have to do some practical training for two years, which is their probationary period after which they finish by taking the second "Staatsexamen". They then become "Beamte zur Anstellung", i.e. they are not permanently employed yet. They usually have to wait another three years before final establishment. The teachers of the Gymnnasium do not reach the highest supply-percentage abouth 71.75 because they need 40 years of service. Grammar school teachers achieve the first step which is A 13 Studienrat. Thereafter A 14 Oberstudienrat, the third step A 15 Studiendirektor. The fourth and last step A 16 is Oberstudiendirektor, i.e. headmaster or -mistress of large grammar schools. Head teachers of Hauptschulen rarely pass A13 so the inequality is built in to the system.
One of the enduring anomalies of teachers employment in Germany is very probably in violation of EU law, in that an EU citizen from another member state cannot be employed under the same conditions as a German national as foreigners cannot become Beamte. Consequently, German schools contain very few nationals of other states, unlike some English schools, which is hardly a fitting contribution to European integration. It must be noted that in 2008, the Federal State of Berlin abolished the status of Beamter and offered its employees more money instead. Other Länder may follow suit.
The diplomatic service/Auswärtiger Dienst is naturally also based on "officialdom", including most privileges like permanent employment. Furthermore, diplomats do not have to make tax or other payments to the state, they get a foreign bonus (c. US$2000 to 5000; further bonuses for the families are not included), and they have diplomatic immunity in foreign countries. Internationally, titles have been introduced to homologise the offices of different diplomatic services. These titles are not considered PTs/Amtsbezeichnungen since they are only used abroad and are not entirely comparable to diplomats from other states. In internal documents, these diplomats use their terms of office. The following table depicts salary grades, titles and PTs of German diplomats and an internationally acknowledged translation. Please note that the below PTs differ from the "normal" ones since they are older expressions introduced in Germany several centuries before the introduction of the later Prussian PTs.
Whether an Ambassador is paid according to salary class B3 or B6 depends on how many employees work for the respective embassy (cf. "big" institutions like the Embassy of Germany in Washington, D.C. to smaller ones in Ulan Bator or elsewhere).
There are several different Besoldungsordnungen: A (for most Beamte and soldiers), B (for ministry officials), C (for university professors and lecturers; has been replaced by W), R (for public prosecuters and all judges) and W for university lecturers and professors. The salaries in order A are organized in steps, i.e. the longer a Beamter has worked, the better he or she is paid. The different groups reach from A2 to A 16 (A1 was outlawed in the 1970s). A2 to A5/6 belong to the Lower Service, A 6 to A 9 to the Middle Service, A 9 to A 13 to the Upper Service and A 13 to A 16 to the Senior Service. The other orders, B, C, R and W, also belong to the Senior Service. The German law (civil service career law) speaks abouth Laufbahnprinzip, an adequate translation of which might be career principle, i.e. the concept of being placed into a certain service (lower, middle, upper or above) according to one's academic education:
Although formally distinguished, the technical careers and non-technical careers do not actually differ from one another.
Despite the similarity with HM Civil Service of the United Kingdom, it differs hugely.
Another country whose entire administrative structure is based on an officialdom comparable to that of Germany is Austria, where Beamte even often have the same titles (cf. "Rat"/~councillor). Most cantons and the federal government of Switzerland have abolished their officialdom. France and the Netherlands are also countries traditionally administered by Beamte.
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