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.


International Workshop, University of Bielefeld

Labour Clauses in Public Procurement

At an international workshop on „Socially Sustainable Public Procurement” organised by the University of Bielefeld on 8-9 April 2016, Thorsten Schulten (WSI) gave a lecture on the use of pay and labour clauses in European and German Public procurement.

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Social Europe, 24.03.2016

No ‘social triple A’ for Europe

In a critical assessment of the Commission's draft of a future ‘European Pillar of Social Rights’ (EPSR), Dr. Daniel Seikel (WSI) concludes that the EPSR does not contribute anything substantial by way of strengthening the EU’s social dimension. On the contrary, it reformulates social rights in a market-compatible way, and the Commission's view is strictly restricted to individual social rights – collective social rights are not even mentioned in the EPSR.

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WSI Collective Bargaining Report Germany 2015

Collective bargaining in 2015 was characterised by a number of hard-fought industrial disputes. Although the 2015 bargaining round resulted in lower nominal pay increases than the previous year, the very low rate of consumer price inflation led to a real increase in agreed pay of 2.4%.

Annual Report (pdf)

Social Policy and Society

When My Money Becomes Our Money: Changes in Couples’ Money Management

Conservative welfare state policies as in Germany often presume that money is a common resource within couples and, therefore, pooled. Research, however, indicates that money is increasingly managed separately. Using SOEP-panel data, Dr. Yonne Lott (WSI) shows that marriage leads to joint pooling or partly independent money management. An increase in women’s incomes, however, is associated with independent money management. Women’s wish for independence contributes to the decline of the joint pool.

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New WSI Report

The German Minimum Wage: Experiences and Perspectives after one year

After more than 10 years of political debate Germany has for the first time introduced a general minimum wage of 8.50 Euros per hour on January 1, 2015. The Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) has now presented a first comprehensive review of the first year after the introduction of the minimum wage, with clear evidence that millions of workers have benefited from the minimum wage without the predicted negative impacts on the labour market.

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Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy

Welfare user roles in a conservative welfare state. Are Germans citizens, consumers or co-producers?

Many welfare states have embraced choice and market mechanisms since the 1990s. With respect to welfare users, it has been argued that this led to a change from citizens to consumers. This paper challenges this observation arguing that user roles are much more complex and include claimants and co-producers in addition to citizens and consumers. Stephan Köppe (UCD), Benjamin Ewert (University Hospital Bonn) and Florian Blank (WSI) investigate user roles in pension insurance, health care and schools.

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New article: ILR Review

Between Strategy and Unpredictability: Negotiated Decision Making in German Union Mergers

Restructuring through mergers has been a key strategy of union revitalization. In Germany, union merger activity has been extensive but seemingly unpredictable in its outcomes, with failed mergers outnumbering successful attempts by a ratio of 2:1. Martin Behrens (WSI) and Andreas Pekarek (University of Melbourne) use case studies of two attempted union mergers in Germany—one failed and one successful—to exemplify how these complex processes unfold.

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The Future of Greek Collective Bargaining

Opportunities for a Restoration?

Under the first two Memorandums, Greece had to commit itself to a radical restructuring of its collective bargaining system. In particular, non-trade union representations of employees were permitted, extensions of collective agreements were prohibited and the favourability principle with regard to the hierarchy of collective bargaining levels was abolished. Dr. Thorsten Schulten (WSI) evaluates recent changes and future prospects of Greek collective bargaining.

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British Journal of Industrial Relations

The Foundations of Social Partnership

Social partnership between capital and labour is a distinctive characteristic of German industrial relations. Based on a survey of 142 German employers’ associations, Martin Behrens (WSI) and Markus Helfen (FU Berlin) investigate differences in their support for partnership with unions. The authors find that organizational characteristics (e.g. membership density) as well as positive experiences with their union counterparts explain why employers’ associations adhere to the norms of social partnership.

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European Sociological Review

Income Advantages of Poorly Qualified Immigrant Minorities

A comparison of log hourly personal income of 1.5th and 2nd generation Spätaussiedler and persons of Turkish origin with that of native Germans shows that poorly qualified persons of Turkish origin experience income advantages; they frequently work in jobs for which they are underqualified.

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Guy van Gyes (KU Leuven) and Thorsten Schulten (WSI) (eds.)

Wage bargaining under the new European Economic Governance

Within the framework of the new European economic governance, neoliberal views on wages have further increased in prominence and have steered various reforms of collective bargaining rules. This book proposes an alternative: Wage developments need to be strengthened through a Europe-wide coordinated reconstruction of collective bargaining as a precondition for more sustainable and inclusive growth.

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Torsten Müller (ETUI) and Thorsten Schulten (WSI)

The public-private sector pay debate in Europe

Using comparative studies and new statistical data, the paper demonstrates  that driving down public sector wages is not the right recipe to get out of the crisis and underlines the need for a strong public sector to boost aggregate demand and provide a modern public infrastructure as major precondition for a competitive economy.

etui working paper 2015.08

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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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-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...


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