Labour market and working conditions

In recent years, labour market policy has been challenged by huge structural changes, most of all by the increase in non-standard and often also precarious forms of employment. Moreover, quality of work has changed – growing job-related stress being one major example.

WSI projects look into the economic and institutional determinants of changes on the national and international level, and seek to identify and assess options for future policy adaptation, with a focus on solutions improving the labour market situation to the benefit of employees. The impact of labour law and social regulations on labour market access and conditions of employment, and the linkages between these dimensions are accounted for by the interdisciplinary co-operation of economists, political scientists, sociologists and law experts in the research area.

Main research topics

labour market changes, non-standard and precarious employment - labour market (de)regulation - quality of work, job-related stress, corporate labour policies - innovation and productivity of companies and sectors

Online research documentation

Solo-selfemployed: between freedom and insecurity

Self-employment can be found in quite different occupations and sectors: The new self-employed without personnel are coaches, public relations officers, interim managers, bricklayers, or home care workers. Many appreciate their position, some feel forced and find it hard to make a proper living. How do they deal with their insecure position? And how do they prepare for the future? Together with Wieteke Conen and Joop Schippers (University of Utrecht), Karin Schulze Buschoff (WSI) investigates advantages and risks of solo-selfemployment in Germany and the Netherlands.
WSI Policy Brief 4, 03/2016 (pdf)


WSI Non-standard Employment Database

The WSI’s "Non-standard Employment" regional database makes data on non-standard employment available for every urban and rural district in Germany. It offers a swift overview on the development since 2003 with evaluations in tables and graphics. more... (in German language)


Atypical Labour Migration into Germany

Move to Work, Move to Stay?

Labour migration from EU countries to Germany has increasingly been characterised by atypical forms of mobility: posting of workers, self-employment and seasonal workers. Bettina Wagner and Anke Hassel investigate changes in intra-EU labour mobility, analyze the effects on labour market segmentation and fragmentation, and discuss the various responses by the government by the extension of collective agreements and the statutory minimum wage.

more ...

Wieteke Conen, Joop Schippers (Utrecht University), Karin Schulze Buschoff (WSI)


The study presents an overview on solo self-employment in Germany and the Netherlands, examining labour market characteristics and social security provisions in the two countries. The authors draw on results from desk research, survey research and interviews with self-employed without personnel. What is the legal and institutional position of self-employed without personnel? What are the motives to become self-employed? The report also provides information on earnings, working hours, balance between work and family life, labour market opportunities, satisfaction, stability and security, future prospects, pensions and representation.

WSI Study 5 (pdf)


Transatlantic Social Dialogue, Brussels 23.05.2016

Refugees’ labour market prospects in Germany

In 2015, the number of registered asylum applications in Germany for the the first time exceeded the 1993 records. Refugee immigration is both a chance and a challenge for Germany. Jutta Höhne (WSI) summarizes available data on refugees and their integration prospects.

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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.

more ...

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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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


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.

more information and download

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...


Questions of Age Discrimination in Decisions of the European Court of Justice

Dr. Nadine Zeibig (WSI) shows that ECJ jurisdiction has a strong impact on German labour law: Several age-related rules, which for years were seen as socially acceptable and proportionate, have been classified by the ECJ as inadmissible age discrimination. As ECJ rulings in the field are inconsistent, negotiation and creation of age-related provisions get increasingly difficult due to lack of legal certainty.

full text


Gender and migration on the labour market

Fleischmann, Fenella, and Jutta Höhne, 2013: Gender and migration on the labour market: Additive or interacting disadvantages in Germany? Social Science Research 42(5): 1325-1345. more...

European Labour Market Policies after the Lisbon Process

Blank, Florian, and Schulze Buschoff, Karin (eds.), 2011: European Labour Market Policies after the Lisbon Process – Results and Consequences. German Policy Studies, Special Issue 7(1). more... (pdf)

For more information on publications and projects, please visit the German webpage of the research area.


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