Research area

Wage policy, collective bargaining and industrial relations

Wage policy, collective bargaining policy and industrial relations have been the main fields of expertise in WSI research and public policy advice for decades. Trade unions, works councils and employers' associations are among the key players for the representation and implementation of employee interests. Research activities focus mainly on the interactions between these players. A panel survey among German works councils provides a unique empirical basis for analyses on the corporate and national level. The WSI Collective Agreement Archive is the major German information centre on developments concerning collectively agreed wages. Research on Germany is complemented by active participation in international networks of scholars investigating wage standards, industrial relations and trade union strategies and perspectives on the European and global level.

Main research topics

collective bargaining in Germany: documentation and analyses - trends in collective bargaining and perspectives of future stabilisation - collective bargaining in Europe und European governance - analyses on works and staff councils - trade unions: organisational problems and organisational action; trends in industrial action - the role of employers’ associations


WSI Collective Agreement Archive

As the DGB trade unions’ documentation centre, the WSI Collective Agreements Archive documents and evaluates ongoing collective bargaining. The Internet pages give information on the development of collective bargaining policy and the collective agreement provisions and benefits in over 50 sectors of the economy in West and East Germany. more...


WSI Minimum Wages Database

Data, graphs and an interactive map give an updated overview of the development and amount of minimum wages in the EU and selected OECD countries. more...

WSI Study 12, 05/2018

Upgrading German public services

Against the European trend, employment and working conditions in the German public sector have improved after the financial crisis. Our WSI study by Thorsten Schulten and Daniel Seikel shows that besides the quick economic recovery trade union strategies played an important role.

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ILO-Publication, 09.07.2018

Collective Agreements: Extending Labour Protection

A Research Project by the International Labour Organization (ILO) examined the extension of collective agreements in international comparison. Thorsten Schulten analyses the German case and explains why the legal reform of 2014 has so far largely failed to enable more extensions.

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WSI Collective Bargaining Report Germany 2017

The 2017 collective bargaining round was dominated by negotiations over pay, with an overall average rise in agreed pay of 2.4%. Set against a rising inflation rate of 1.8%, this implied a modest average increase in real pay of 0.6% compared with the previous year, substantially less than in 2016. Given the favourable economic situation, pay claims submitted for 2018 indicate that trade unions will be pressing for a return to more expansive approach. The 2018 bargaining round has also seen the return of the issue of working time organisation to the negotiating agenda.

Collective bargaining report 2017 (pdf)

WSI Report Nr. 39e, 02/2018

Comprehensive Analysis on Minimum Wages

The call for a minimum wage sufficient to secure a decent existence has been at
the centre of public debate both in Germany and across Europe. The WSI
Minimum Wage Report aims to contribute to this debate by offering a comprehensive analysis of current minimum wage developments in Europe and beyond.

WSI Report 39e (pdf, English)

DECOBA Project Working Paper

Varieties of decentralisation in German collective bargaining

Within the framework of the EU-funded project on “Decentralization of Collective Bargaining in Europe” (DECOBA) Thorsten Schulten and Reinhard Bispinck analyse the development in Germany. They elaborate two in-depth case studies on the metal industry and retail trade which show the increasing differentiation and segmentation of German collective bargaining.


Socio-Economic Review, online advance 27.10.2017

the art of shaping interests: German employers’ associations

Employers' associations are, by nature, non-profit organizations of for-profit members. How do they manage to represent the contradictory interests of competitors within a single organization? Based on a unique dataset on 358 German employers’ associations, Martin Behrens (WSI) shows that associations seek to reconcile conflicting interests by way of establishing an elaborated set of rules for admission, interest insulation, weighting, activation and dispute resolution.

more ...


Social Europe, 09.08.2017

Why Won’t Wages In Europe Rise As They Should?

Economic growth is finally taking hold across Europe, employment is expanding - but wages stagnate. Thorsten Schulten and Malte Lübker (WSI) on what is behind – and on what is needed: active support for collective bargaining and a European minimum wage policy.

more ...


MBF-Report 31, Workers’ Voice

Employee Participation Promotes Large Companies

A new report by Anke Hassel and Nicole Helmerich gives a glance about Workers’ Voice in the 100 largest European companies. Among others it shows that Board Level Employee Representation strengthens several forms of employee participation and comes with good corporate governance and business performance.

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International conference, Kiev 30.-31.03.2017

Minimum wages – A chance for redistribution and growth?

The Ukrainian parliament decided in Dezember 2016 to double the minimum wage, a decision followed by an intensive national debate: Who is profiting? What are the effects on the labour market? Reinhard Bispinck and Thorsten Schulten (WSI) gave an overview of minimum wages in Europe and their economic and social impact in Germany.

Minimum wages in Europe - a comparative overview (pdf)
Impact on employment and inequality in Germany (pdf)


Joint ETUI-WSI Workshop, 07./08.02.2017 Brussels

Living Wages in Europe

“All workers have the right to a fair remuneration sufficient for a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.” (European Social Charter) What can be done to promote the concept of living wage across Europe? Experts from several European countries discussed conceptual issues, the UK experience as the most advanced example of a national living wage movement, and future European perspectives.

Minimum and living wages in Europe (pdf)
full documentation


Ingrid Artus, Martin Behrens (WSI), Berndt Keller et al. (eds.)

Developments in German Industrial Relations

The book presents a comprehensive review of research in German industrial relations, analyzing the major developments and changes in the real world of the German model and its major institutions, namely the DGB trade unions and co-determination on the establishment-level. In addition, the authors (among them, Heiner Dribbusch and Martin Behrens, WSI) discuss the contributions of neighbouring disciplines, particularly human resource management, economics, and labour law.

more ...

ETUI International Conference, 27.06.2016 Brussels

Digitalisation and Collective Bargaining

The process of digitalisation has far-reaching consequences for the organisation of work and requires new form of labour protection. Thorsten Schulten (WSI) discusses the challenges for collective bargaining in negotiating the new world of work.

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ETUI Policy Brief 04/2016

Extension of collective agreements

If collective bargaining is to continue to be a distinctive feature of European labour market regulation, many countries need to reconstruct their bargaining systems to make sure that a majority of workers will again be covered by collective agreements. Thorsten Schulten (WSI) presents the current national procedures and discusses the meaning of extension for the stability of collective bargaining in Europe.

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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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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.

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Spanish version (pdf)
French version (pdf)

Trade Unions in Germany: Organisation, Environment, Challenges

Dribbusch, Heiner, and Peter Birke, 2012: Trade Unions in Germany: Organisation, Environment, Challenges. Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

full text (pdf)

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


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