The Social Democrats will promise to create 4m jobs by turning Germany into a “Silicon Valley of environmentally friendly industrial production” if they win the election in September.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in a speech in Berlin on Monday, will vow to “end unemployment by 2020” if he becomes chancellor of an SPD government.

In a 67-page “Deutschland Plan”, Mr Steinmeier will detail how he would create 2m industrial jobs, 1m jobs in the health sector and 500,000 jobs in both the creative and services sectors.

“We show here how Germany can create 4m new jobs in the next decade with clever policies,” Mr Steinmeier will say.

The SPD, junior partner in the grand coalition, has put jobs at the centre of its campaign, which began in earnest last week.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Christian Democratic economics minister, said Mr Steinmeier’s pledge was a “desperate move to prop up a moribund SPD”. “The people have had enough of being snowed under with promises in election times.”

With opinion surveys crediting the SPD with 23-24 per cent of the votes, most analysts see Mr Steinmeier’s chances of leading his party to victory on September 27 as virtually non-existent.

SPD officials, however, point to the party’s breathtaking comeback in the last weeks of the 2005 campaign and to the fact that more than a quarter of voters are expected to pick a party in the last week before the election.

The current economic slowdown, the most brutal in a century, is expected to lift unemployment from 3.5m to more than 5m in the course of the next year while surveys show that fear of unemployment ranks high on the list of voters’ concerns.

With ratings ranging from 35 to 38 per cent, Angela Merkel’s CDU has yet to begin its campaign, but the SPD’s activism in the past two weeks has begun to raise concern in the conservative camp that it may come across as complacent.

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