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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.

Social Europe online

The Need For A Gender Perspective On Digitalization

Digitalization, i.e. flexible work in space and time, will not automatically foster employees’ work-life balance, as is often proclaimed. Yvonne Lott (WSI) agues that flexible working has different impacts on women’s and men’s lives and risks aggravating traditional gender arrangements: With flexible working time, men often invest more time in work. Women, by contrast, use their time flexibility more for activities and duties outside work.

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Journal of European Public Policy 22 (8), 1166-1185, 2015

Class struggle in the shadow of Luxembourg

In recent years, the European Court of Justice has extended the scope of the four fundamental freedoms to politically and economically highly sensitive areas such as the right to strike and the regulation of working conditions of posted workers. Dr. Daniel Seikel (WSI) analyses the domestic impact of two of the most controversial judgments – Laval and Rüffert – in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, concluding that the ECJ's case law has shifted the balance of power between labour and capital in the domestic arenas in favour of business.

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Maarten van Klaveren, Denis Gregory, Thorsten Schulten (eds.)

Minimum Wages, Collective Bargaining and Economic Development in Asia and Europe: A Labour Perspective

The volume offers a labour perspective on wage-setting institutions, collective bargaining and economic development. Sixteen country chapters, eight on Asia and eight on Europe, focus in particular on the role and effectiveness of minimum wages in the context of national trends in income inequality, economic development, and social security.

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WSI Discussion Paper No. 199

Atypical forms of employment in the public sector – are there any?

Atypical forms of employment are also widespread in the public sector but are all in all less precarious than in the private sector. In the public sector, the percentage of low-wage earners is considerably lower than in the private one, as the coverage rates of collective agreement (at over 90 per cent) are high. Moreover, employees with atypical forms of employment have better opportunities for further training in the public than in the private sector.

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New publication on Social Europe online

The German Model seen by its neighbours

Since the Financial Crisis in 2008 Germany has performed better than most of its neighbouring countries. What makes Germany so special that nobel prize winner Krugman called it a miracle, and is this sustainable? And what do neighbours think about Germany? The book consists of two parts. Part one shows Germany seen by some authors of the Variety of Capitalism literature hosted in the US, and by Germans themselves. Part two shows Germany in the eyes of its European neighbours.

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WSI Discussion Paper No. 198

Is the Left-Right Alignment of Parties Outdated?

The advocates of modern western democracy promote the viewpoint that the class division of the society is becoming outdated. Andranik Tangian (WSI) attempts to disprove this statement analyzing the official party positions on 38 policy issues of 28 German parties who participated in the 2013 federal election. The author concludes that neither the left-right characterization of parties nor the class opposition perspective is outdated.

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Global Labor Column No. 197 (March 2015)

Preconditions for successful implementation of the new minimum wage in Germany

In a contribution for the Global Labor Column Thorsten Schulten (WSI) discusses current deficits of the new statutory minimum wage in Germany and makes concrete proposals for a better implementation.

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WSI Discussion Paper No. 197

Sector-level Strategies against Precarious Employment in Germany

This study focuses on describing and analyzing the concrete initiatives taken by trade unions and employers to combat precarious employment in construction, commercial cleaning, hospitals and temporary agency work. It is based on an evaluation of recent data, research literature and policy documents as well as a number of interviews with experts from all four sectors. The study is also part of a wider European project called “Bargaining for Social Rights at Sector Level” (BARSORIS) which include studies from seven European countries (Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and the UK).

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more on the BARSORIS project

Gender inequality at the workplace

Costs and Benefits of Flexibility and Autonomy in Working Time

Dr. Yvonne Lott (WSI) investigates the relations between women's and men's flexibility and autonomy in working time and two central work outcomes: overtime and income. Findings point to gendered costs and benefits of working time flexibility and autonomy: Flexible working time and working time autonomy are associated with an increase of overtime and income - but only for men. Women in fulltime positions who also increase their time investment with working time autonomy and employee-oriented flexibility to a similar extent, do not receive similar financial rewards.

WSI Discussion Paper No. 196 (pdf)

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New Publication

European Economic Governance and Collective Bargaining

In a contribution to a new book of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) edited by Steffen Lehndorff, Thorsten Schulten (WSI) and Torsten Müller (ETUI) analyse the influence of the new European Economic Governance on national wage developments and collective bargaining.

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bEUcitizens project

Hanna in Luck

Prof. Dr. Brigitte Unger, WSI Academic Director, in a recent blog post on the consequences of the imcompatible pension systems within the EU

bEUcitizen blog
more on the project ...

New WSI Discussion Paper

Wages, Collective Bargaining and Recovery from the Crisis in the Netherlands

Maarten van Klaveren and Kea Tijdens (AIAS) discuss policy options available for the recovery of the Dutch economy, in particular questioning the logic of continuing with the current export-led growth and wage moderation path. The authors conclude that continuing the Dutch wage moderation tradition in current conditions would cause negative effects, not only on domestic demand but also on the country’s labour productivity and growth potential. Thus, there are good reasons to defend a wage-led strategy as a recovery option in the case of the Netherlands.

WSI Discussion Paper 194 (pdf)

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Contours of a European Minimum Wage Policy

In a recent study published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Thorsten Schulten (WSI) summarises the current debate on a European Minimum Wage Policy and analyses its economic, political and institutional implications.

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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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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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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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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)

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

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WSI-Mitteilungen

"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...