Take a number: Jobless in Germany
By CNN's Stephanie Halasz
BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- On a recent freezing morning, Berlin's jobless waited outside an unemployment office, where the long lines continued inside as people sought assistance.
In some districts, almost one-fifth of the workforce is unemployed -- nearly double the national average of 9.6 percent.
Those looking for a job can search online, but not with much success.
"I have been coming here for one and a half years," says Monika Neuhaus, a widow with two children. "But it never worked out."
But the German government wants to see things change.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has announced measures to fight unemployment, including programs such as the so-called "combi-wages," where the jobless are encouraged to take low-income work by being offered benefits -- such as having their social security paid for by the state.
Among the jobs on offer: cleaning office buildings and schools four hours a day. Leona Ritter was unemployed for five years before getting work through the government program.
In the eastern state of Brandenburg, unemployment hovers at 18 percent. A district there is one of six nationwide to adopt the "combi-wage" program.
"For me this model is advantageous," Ritter says, "Because I make money. I think it's great. I would not have been able to get a job and I really wanted to make some money."
But there are those who remain skeptical about the success of these measures.
"I think in the western part of Germany it is more successful, because there's a rate on unemployment not so great or not so big as in this region," says Knut Corte of the unemployment office in Neuruppin, near Berlin.
More bad news for the government: The opposition leads in opinion polls, and its candidate for chancellor, Edmund Stoiber, has attacked the government for what he calls a failed employment policy.
Some labour officials say measures like "combi-wage" are designed to help Germany's current government stay in power -- while others argue that any program to give the jobless work is a step in the right direction.
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