Germans are freed at last to shop on Saturday afternoon

Saturdays will never be the same again and some Germans fear the very fabric of society is about to be ripped apart by a radical decision to allow shops to open at the customer's convenience. The Bundestag yesterday voted to extend shopping hours to 8pm on weekdays and a daring 4pm on Saturdays, overturning a 40-year law which ensured that shop assistants got home at a decent time.

In practice, that meant that they closed the tills at 6.15pm on all weekdays but Thursday, and the last customer would be ejected at 2pm on Saturdays. On the Sabbath, only petrol stations have been allowed to sell goods, but not fresh milk or fresh bread. Sundays will remain holy even under the new regime, though bakers are to be given special dispensation for three hours in the morning.

Debate about the law which made working people's life a misery had been raging for years, and it is not over yet. The reforms are backed by the governing coalition and vehemently opposed by everybody else. MPs belonging to the left, fearful for shopworkers' quality of life, voted against the amendment, which scraped through by the narrowest of majorities.

Next month it will go to the opposition-dominated upper chamber, the Bundesrat, where it will almost certainly be rejected. Then the government will need an absolute majority in the Bundestag - half the total number of MPs plus one - to confirm the Bill's passage. In yesterday's vote, the governing coalition was five short of that, because of the defection of one Christian Democrat and the abstention of another three.

The government is keen to liberalise Germany's stunted retail sector in order to help create jobs and boost consumer spending at a time of recession. More than 100,000 new people would have to be hired by stores, but the unions argue that many of these would be "Macjobs" - underpaid work with no security.

The unions have found their natural allies among the shop-keeper class who have grown rich, rude and lazy in the sellers' market that is Germany. The corner-shop owners are the backbone of Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic party. Conservative MPs are aware that offending them, which these reforms surely will, would exact severe retribution at the polls.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there