Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
Coming up this weekend, Angela Merkel will make her first public appearance since stepping down last December at the end of 16 highly influential and successful years as Germany’s head of government. She wasn’t its head of state — Germany is a democratic federal parliamentary republic, with both a chancellor and a president. The president is the official head of state.
Ms. Merkel was Germany’s chancellor, or head of government, which is where the real power lies — as evidenced by the fact that most people who have even a passing familiarity with world politics have at least heard the name “Angela Merkel.” It’s likely that very few people outside of Germany itself could tell you who Frank-Walter Steinmeier is.
Steinmeier, Germany’s sitting president, is the reason that Merkel will briefly re-enter the global political spotlight on Sunday, when she attends the federal convention called to extend Steinmeier’s term in office. There’s an argument to be made that Merkel was the most influential political leader in the world over the past two decades. And now she’s merely a private citizen.
Interestingly, Merkel effectively ended her political career at the same age, 67, that current U.S. president Joe Biden was when he began his first term as Barack Obama’s vice president — all the way back in 2009. So it’s not as though Merkel doesn’t still have many potentially eventful years ahead of her. Many potentially eventful years of what, you might ask?
We might ask that as well, it turns out. In fact we did ask it, in the middle of the Not So Serious section at the end of the 2022 Salary Survey. We think that Angela Merkel could still do a lot. Just like a world-class athlete retiring from sport and moving to the next phase of his or her life, Angela Merkel is a world-class politician who just quit essentially at the top of her game.
Washington Wizards great Michael Jordan (sorry, couldn’t resist) retired from basketball in 2003. Now he’s the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, a billionaire philanthropist, a (still) celebrity endorser and … well, he plays a lot of golf. That’s a much higher public profile than some all-time greats have maintained, but it also underscores the reality that walking away from public life, means walking away from public life. The public no longer tends to find out everything (or even anything) about you.
So whatever plans Angel Merkel has for her remaining decades on Earth are her business, and not subject in any way to be shared with anyone else. We might never know what she’s up to, beyond the occasional appearance at German or international government functions. Which is kind of what makes it fascinating to speculate. And, again, it’s not like she’s, you know, old old — 67 is the new 55.
So we asked a whole lot of certified professionals, including some from Germany — 1.8 percent of all non-U.S. survey respondents, to be precise — what they think Angela Merkel should do next. Here’s what we learned:
Q: Now that she’s stepping down as Chancellor of Germany, what should Angela Merkel do next?
Embrace her destiny as a shoo-in to become the next secretary general of the United Nations. — 30.7 percent
Follow her football-loving heart and take over as CEO of Bundesliga for five years, then go clean up FIFA. — 34.5 percent
Convert to Catholicism and become the first woman pope. — 11.7 percent
Go into cryo-sleep until the United Federation of Planets finally gets here and we need an inaugural president. — 23.1 percent
The current secretary general of the United Nations is Antonio Guterres of Portugal, who has held his post since Jan. 1, 2017. There only been nine secretaries general altogether, and the extant custom (since 1997) is for the office holder to serve two five-year terms and then retire. So Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, could be expected to hang around until 2027.
Merkel would then enter office at age 72, becoming the first female secretary general. Or at least that’s what 30.7 percent of Salary Survey respondents think should happen. Could Merkel smash the ultimate glass ceiling of political leadership? She’s certainly qualified.
Speaking of glass ceilings, 11.7 percent of respondents would like to see Ms. Merkel, a vocally committed Christian and evangelical Lutheran, swerve into Catholicism and become the first woman pope. I mean, yeah, this is essentially a pleasant fantasy — whereas secretary general-hood is entirely possible in the real world as we know it — but it would be fun to see, right?
Another thing that could totally actually happen is Merkel departing politics to enter the world of professional sports. She is known to be a passionate football (soccer, if you’re in the United States) fan, and Germany is home to one of the premier football leagues on planet Earth. That’s what 34.5 percent of those surveyed think should happen. Merkel takes charge of the German professional league (or Bundesliga) for five years, and then cleans up the definitely shady world of FIFA, football/soccer’s international governing body.
Now that the actual Captain Kirk (William Shatner) has been to outer space, however, how far away can we actually be from the United Federation of Planets, right? The intragalactic body that governs the final frontier envisioned by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry will need the best leader we’ve got.
And that’s the future path that 23.1 percent of those surveyed envision for Merkel. She should go into cyro-sleep immediately, and then we can revive her when Earth really and truly is desperate for first-class political savvy.