German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, and Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, center, prior to the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)The Associated Press
BERLIN – The German Parliament has approved the introduction of the country's first national minimum wage, which will guarantee most workers in Europe's biggest economy at least 8.50 euros ($11.60) per hour starting next year.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is taking the step at the insistence of her coalition partners since last December, the center-left Social Democrats. Some employers will have two years to phase in the minimum wage, which takes effect Jan. 1.
Merkel's conservatives have gone along with the plan unenthusiastically; for decades, determining wages in Germany has been a matter almost entirely for unions and employers. Under-18s will be exempted, as will the long-term unemployed in the first six months after they return to work.
Lawmakers voted 535-5 with 61 abstentions in favor of the minimum wage on Thursday.