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.

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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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.



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 presents detailed 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)

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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