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.

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)


TTIP Prospects

WSI Academic Director Prof. Dr. Brigitte Unger interviews Prof. David Vogel, Haas Business School, Berkeley, on the prospects of the Transnational Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

video on youtube


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.

Download (pdf)


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.

Download (pdf)
Spanish version (pdf)
French version (pdf)

British Sociological Association press release

Growth of part-time and temporary work could trigger a demographic crisis

Recent research has shown that the rise of atypical employment is damaging for the European demography. Professor Andranik Tangian (WSI) predicts higher levels of economic inequality and fewer births due to the increase in atypical employment in Western Europe. If current trends continued, the situation would become highly critical by 2030.

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Minimum Wage Regimes in Europe

In a study for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Thorsten Schulten (WSI) gives an overview on the various minimum wage regimes in Europe and discusses the question what Germany might learn from European experiences.

full text (pdf)

Cambridge Journal of Economics

Is flexible labour good for innovation? Evidence from firm-level data

Whether the use of flexible workers is damaging to innovation or not depends on the dominant innovation regime in a sector. Alfred Kleinknecht (WSI), Flore N. van Schaik and Haibo Zhou show that in sectors with a ‘routinised’ innovation regime, high shares of low-paid temporary workers have a negative impact on the probability that firms invest in R&D. In sectors that tend towards a ‘garage business’ regime, however, flexibility has no impact. more...


Springer 2014 - ISBN: 978-3-642-38723-4

Mathematical Theory of Democracy

The mathematical theory of democracy deals with the selection of representatives who make decisions on behalf of the whole society. To bridge representative and direct democracy, Andranik Tangian (WSI) proposes an election method that is based not on voting but on indexing candidates with respect to the electorate’s political profile.


International research project "ProWelfare"

Providing welfare through Social Dialogue: A renewed role for Social Partners?

Academic partners in 8 European countries (including Dr. Florian Blank, WSI) investigated “voluntary occupational welfare” (VOW) or “contract welfare”, i.e. the provision of supplementary welfare benefits through collective bargaining and (or) unilateral bargaining by employers. The outcomes of the EU-financed project coordinated by ETUC and OSE were presented during the Final Conference held on 05.12.2013 in Brussels.

conference video report (youtube)
project homepage

European Journal of Industrial Relations

Wage and workforce adjustments in the economic crisis in Germany and the Netherlands

Kea Tijdens, Maarten van Klaveren (University of Amsterdam), Reinhard Bispinck, Heiner Dribbusch (WSI) and Fikret Öz (IAT) investigated the trade-off between wage and workforce adjustments and the role of industrial relations in firm-level responses to the economic crisis in Germany and the Netherlands. The authors found no large-scale evidence of wage concessions being traded-off for job protection in the two countries. Collective bargaining ensured that wage-setting was more robust than employment protection.

full text (pdf)


Roadmap to a Social Europe

The e-book (co-edited by Brigitte Unger, WSI) seeks to set the revived discussion about a ‘Social Europe’ in relation to the general European crisis, present trade unions views on the subject and analyse specific policy and action issues important for the development of a real social dimension of European integration. The book contains articles by Jürgen Habermas, Zygmunt Bauman and European and national trade union leaders amongst many others.

full text (pdf)

Journal of European Public Policy

How the European Commission deepened financial market integration

Daniel Seikel (WSI) argues that the European financial market integration cannot be understood without the European Commission's gradual enforcement of supranational competition law for financial services and shows that the regulatory integration of financial services in the EU is much more driven by supranational institutions than assumed by the bulk of the literature. more...

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.

more information

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...