Achievement? You bet!

August 2010

The German economy seems finally to have moved on from the crisis. The Ifo Business Climate Index rose more sharply in July than at any time in the last 20 years, and the German Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry also revised its forecast upwards, as did the federal government and the Bundesbank. In the light of positive figures, more and more economists believe that Germany is experiencing an upturn and, as far as consumers are concerned, good news is ensuring a brighter consumer climate. This relief following the rollercoaster ride provided by the crisis is also beginning to impact on the values of the German population. In the spirit of the motto “Now let’s get to grips with it”, far more people rate achievement-related values highly than in January. However, the need for security remains paramount.

In January this year, the overwhelming majority of Germans were of the opinion that the need for security was becoming far more important (see FocusTopic 2. Changing values). Even today – some six months later – this has not changed: virtually irrespective of income, class and gender, Germans rank this value most highly. Despite all the good news, the uncertainty triggered by the economic crisis has not yet been forgotten. This is evident from the results of the latest study conducted by the GfK Association on the subject of “Changing value perception”, during which more than 1,000 people were surveyed for the second time in August.

However, it is apparent that Germans want to get to work with new drive. Achievement-related values, in particular, have gained ground since the last survey. Today 65% of people think that positive action and commitment are more important at present, which amounts to 7% more than in January.

As is well known, nothing comes from nothing: only a few people can imagine everything carrying on after the crisis as it did before. In line with this, the concepts of competition and innovation have also made significant gains compared with the previous survey. Consequently, almost half of Germans assume it is now more important than it was to be competitive and to prevail against others with one's work, one's own abilities or economic performance. This value has risen by 10% in comparison with January.

The country needs new ideas

Furthermore, 44% of respondents are sure that it is increasingly important to be ahead of the curve with developments. The view that innovation will provide a path out of the crisis and back to economic leadership has risen by 8% compared with the previous survey. “Anybody who stops getting better has stopped being good”, said the entrepreneur Philip Rosenthal once. Obviously many Germans take a similar view.

In return, the concept of solidarity is evidently losing ground. While in January, just under half of respondents believed that the importance of community spirit in society was increasing, only 41% currently express this view. And conversely, while only 7% thought then that solidarity was no longer quite so important, twice as many people think this way today. In light of the economic recovery taking place, more people are assuming that increased competition will dominate and that consequently the focus on togetherness will fade from view. Instead, greater relevance is attributed to the subject of power. Admittedly, the value ranks fourth from bottom and therefore at the lower end of the scale, but 32% of respondents think that the subject is becoming more important, which is 7% more than in January.

Does the end of the crisis also mean an end to empathy and humanity? Not at all! But the path in that direction leads via responsibility and trust. These values are ranked third and fourth and are consequently still among the top “climbers” in society’s value hierarchy. Accordingly, more than half of Germans continue to accept that it is increasingly important now to do their duty, and this includes showing responsibility towards others. Similarly, compared with January, the subject of trust has lost nothing of its topicality.

“Homing” is no longer quite so important

Things are different with regard to the significance of one's own home: as the crisis fades, the trend towards “homing” is also declining somewhat. While one’s own home was still ranked second in the last survey, the value has now dropped back to fifth place. While just over half of respondents still believe that home is a value which is gaining in importance, the number of those that take this view has fallen by 6 percentage points. It’s hardly surprising: demonstrating achievement, pressing ahead with innovation, acting responsibly – it is difficult to achieve all this in the comfort of one’s own home.

Less restraint, but luxury is also out

But even if Germans are looking towards the future with new verve, they are still far from being in the mood for adventure and luxury following the chaos caused by the crisis. Although both values rose slightly in recent months, this increase has not been sufficient to pull them upwards in the rankings. An expensive car, your own pool or unusual holidays in far flung corners of the earth play a minor role according to 40% of the respondents. Nevertheless, there are positive signs for consumption: compared with January, significantly more people are of the opinion that restraint will not play as great a part in the time ahead, and the number of those believing that less restraint is the order of the day has risen by half from 14% to 21%. A small ray of hope but all the same. After all, Goethe once said, , “Wer sichere Schritte tun will, muss sie langsam tun” (progress must be slow to be secure).

Data source: the GfK Association (Omnibus survey August 2010).

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