The Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI)

The Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) is an independent academic institute within the Hans-Böckler-Foundation, a non-profit organisation fostering co-determination and promoting research and academic study on behalf of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB).

Since it was founded in 1946, the institute's focus has always been on the improvement of life chances, on social justice and fair working and living conditions. Economists, sociologists, political scientists and law scholars work on social, economic and labour market policy issues. On the basis of their analyses, researchers elaborate policy proposals aimed at overcoming labour market restrictions and social problems to the benefit of employees.

Council of Nordic Trade Unions & FES Seminar, 02.10.2014, Oslo

Future of Collective Bargaining in Germany

Dr. Thorsten Schulten (WSI) presents trends in German collective bargaining and their implications for wage developments and economic performance, concluding that the introduction of minimum wages and improved extension regulations may help to establish a more expansive and more solidaristic wage policy.

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New WSI Discussion paper

Wages, Collective Bargaining and Economic Development in Germany

Thorsten Schulten and Reinhard Bispinck discuss long-term trends in German collective bargaining and its implications for the overall economic development.

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ETUI Policy Brief

Back on the agenda: a European minimum wage standard

In a new Policy Brief from the European Trade Union Institute Thorsten Schulten (WSI) and Torsten Müller (ETUI) discuss possibilities of a European minimum wage policy.

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Social Europe Journal online

Policy Priorities For A Social Europe

What needs to be done to create a true Social Europe? In her recent article for Social Europe online, Professor Brigitte Unger (WSI Academic Director) highlights current deficits and summarizes that a Social Europe needs solidarity – which is much easier among more equals than among very unequals. Therefore, democratically legitimated generous spending programs financed by the culprits of the financial crisis – the financial markets — and by the very rich would be a first step in the right direction towards a Social Europe.

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New study

Collective Bargaining under the European Economic Crisis

In a study on behalf of IndustriAll Europe Thorsten Schulten (WSI) and Torsten Müller (ETUI) analyse recent trends in collective bargaining in the European metal, chemical and textile industry.

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Conflict Resolution in Germany

In his contribution to "The Oxford Handbook of Conflict Management in Organizations", Dr. Martin Behrens (WSI) looks into the dispute resolution mechanisms in German employment relations. The author investigates whether increasing economic pressure on companies in export-driven industries has undermined social partnership and whether traditional institutions for conflict resolution are still adequate to address workplace-related conflict in the future.

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Recent publication in Comparative European Politics

'Breaking up is hard to do’: German trade unions within the Social Democratic Party

Using data from a survey of more than 2300 SPD activists, Wade Jacoby (Brigham Young University) and Martin Behrens (WSI) explore individual attitudes towards German trade unions. Findings reveal two distinct dimensions of alienation: ‘Content alienation’ picks up on differences in political goals among unions and the SPD, ‘contact alienation’ builds on scepticism about union inclination or capacity. more...

New WSI Discussion Paper

Working time flexibility and autonomy: Facilitating time adequacy? A European perspective

Dr. Yvonne Lott (WSI) examines the effect of working time flexibility and autonomy on time adequacy using EWCS data from 2010. Drawing on gender theory and welfare state theory, gender differences and the institutional contexts of the UK, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands are taken into account. The study reveals that working time flexibility and autonomy are positively related to time adequacy for women. Men, however, tend to experience overtime and work intensification. In the Netherlands, employees profit most from working time autonomy.

WSI Discussion Paper 190 (pdf)


New WSI Discussion Paper

Working Time Autonomy and Time Adequacy. What if performance is all that counts?

To be able to combine work with activities and duties outside the workplace successfully, employees need time adequacy, i.e. an appropriate fit between working time and all other time demands. Time adequacy can be achieved through working time flexibility and autonomy. Dr. Yvonne Lott (WSI) shows that working time flexibility and autonomy, as well as self-directed teamwork, are positively associated with time adequacy. However, performance-related pay undermines the positive effect of working time autonomy.

WSI Discussion Paper 188 (pdf)


Recent publication

Unemployment and wages in Europe

In a contribution to a new book of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Madrid, Thorsten Schulten (WSI) analyses recent trends in unemployment and wages in Europe under the conditions of the economic crisis.

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Trade unions in Germany: Developments, challenges, strategies

In 2014 the DGB trade unions can look back on a number of important achievements. At the same time, they face important future challenges. The brochure provides information on the political context, recent membership development and density, along with assessments on approaches and controversies concerning trade union crisis policy, the struggle against the low-wage sector and organising strategies.

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Spanish version (pdf)
French version (pdf)

Key research topics

WSI research covers issues of employment and institutional change in a globalising world, the quality of work as well as questions of redistribution and social security, industrial relations and collective bargaining policy. The work of the WSI is organised in five research areas:

Labour market and working conditions
Wage policy, collective bargaining and industrial relations
Social policy and redistribution
Gender research
Europe and European policies

Surveys and data collections

WSI studies empirically draw on a number of unique surveys, data collections and documentations. Tables, analyses and graphs in professional quality layout are available for free download via online web portals. more...

Research expertise

Information on WSI members of staff and WSI guests and their fields of expertise

WSI Academic Staff
WSI Guest Researchers



"WSI-Mitteilungen" is a scientific journal providing up-to-date information on the results of research on current issues of relevance to trade unions.

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Networks, cooperations, fellowships

WSI actively participates in national and international research networks. Next to temporary projects, the institute maintains well-established long-term research relations with academic partners and trade-union organizations. more...