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.


Transfer Vol. 25 (3), 2019

Europe: From Minimum to Living Wages

Minimum wages are often set only at a rather low level, which does not allow for a decent standard of living. More recently, however, many European countries have seen political initiatives for a more substantial increase of minimum wages. As analysed by Thorsten Schulten (WSI) and Torsten Müller (ETUI), these initiatives fit quite well to the concept of a European minimum wage policy.

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Social Policy and Administration, online advance publication

The state of the German social insurance state: Reform and resilience

In recent decades, Germany has been experiencing major social policy reforms that are often evaluated as paradigm changes. Florian Blank (WSI) focuses on four aspects of social insurance: benefits, financing, governance, and coverage. Although sharing assessments of changes such as retrenchment and marketization, the article nevertheless stresses that social insurance remains structurally intact and that the work–welfare nexus underlying welfare provision has been reinterpreted but not surrendered.

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WSI Report 52, 09/2019

Pragmatic solutions to save the euro

The reform of the euro zone is stuck. Against the background of political blockades, Daniel Seikel (WSI) and Achim Truger (University Duisburg-Essen) examine from a combined economic and political science perspective how the Euro can be prepared for the next crisis and develop a proposal of how, under the given circumstances, the room for maneuver within the existing framework of economic and monetary union can be extended in a pragmatic way in order to strengthen national fiscal policy as an instrument of macroeconomic stabilization.

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ILR Review, online advance publication 2019

Conflict Resolution in Comparative Perspective

Different countries, different conflicts at the workplace - different methods to solve conflicts. Martin Behrens, Alexander J. S. Colvin, Lisa Dorigatti, and Andreas H. Pekarek have analyzed two dimensions of conflict resolution: collective-individual and regulated-voluntarist – in four countries: Germany, the United States, Italy, and Australia.

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Martin Behrens, Heiner Dribbusch (eds.), special issue 2019

German Industrial Relations - Dynamics and Perspectives

The system of German industrial relations aroused lively interest following the corporatist crisis management of 2009/2010, which was credited with ‘Germany’s jobs miracle’. In 2019, it is apparent that although works councils and multi-employer collective bargaining are still alive, labour relations as a whole are undergoing substantial changes. It is the aim of this special issue to improve the understanding of these changes, and to open up new perspectives on both the theory and practice of industrial relations.

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New book by Stefan Schmalz and Brandon Sommer (eds.), Rowman & Littlefield 2019

Precarious Environment: European Trade Unions in a Time of Crises

Roughly a decade after the deep crisis, the economy in most EU countries appears to have recovered, but in many countries unemployment has been replaced by the rise of precarious labour. A cross-country analysis reveals that trade unions face similar challenges under very different conditions. Looking at parallels amid contrasts, Steffen Lehndorff (IAQ), Heiner Dribbusch and Thorsten Schulten (WSI) conclude that unions need to develop capacities to act in a politically autonomous way.

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New book by W. Conen and J. Schippers, Edward Elgar 2019

The ‘new’ self-employed and hybrid forms of employment: challenges for social policies in Europe

The extension of social security protection to all paid workers – including to self-employed workers and atypical-, flexible- and hybrid-job holders – is a fundamental prerequisite for strengthening Europe’s social dimension. Karin Schulze Buschoff (WSI) shows that the Dutch basic old-age pension system and the Austrian approach could serve as suitable models for other countries.

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New book by Johannes M. Kiess, Martin Seeliger (eds.), Routledge 2019

Trade Unions and European Integration

New European economic governance regime and the autonomy of collective bargaining: a fundamental conflict. The book chapter by Daniel Seikel (WSI) shows how reform measures imposed on programme countries have led to a substantial deterioration of the bargaining power of trade unions, undermining one of the cornerstones of post-war democratic governance.

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Torsten Müller (etui) and Thorsten Schulten (WSI), 2019

Germany: parallel universes of collective bargaining

In Germany, the past 20 years have been marked by decentralisation, fragmentation and erosion of the bargaining landscape, resulting in parallel universes, with great variation in regulatory capacity. In their chapter for the new etui book on collective bargaining in Europe, the authors explore the different factors that led to this state of affairs.

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Human Relations, online advance publication

labor market re-entry after childbirth: facilitated by flextime?

How do national-level work–life balance policies shape the role of flextime in maternal labor market re-entry after childbirth? Yvonne Lott (WSI) analyzes whether mothers’ and partners’ flextime facilitates maternal labor market re-entry after childbirth in Germany, where family policy reforms have been implemented in the last two decades. The analysis indicates that generous national-level work–life balance policies can diminish the effectiveness of organizational work–life balance policies for mothers’ employment behavior.

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Heiner Dribbusch (WSI)/Peter Birke (University of Goettingen): FES Study

Trade unions in Germany: Challenges in a time of transition

Germany after the crisis: the economy has recovered, unemployment has fallen. However, many challenges for trade unions remain: precarious jobs, digitalisation, the decline of collective bargaining coverage. New aspects: The shift to the far-right in society and the migration caused by the global refugee crisis touching the question of trade union solidarity. The brochure provides information on the political context, recent membership development and density, along with assessments on approaches and controversies concerning trade union policies.

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Los sindicatos en Alemania: Desafíos en una época de transiciones (pdf)
Les syndicats allemands: Défis en période de transition (pdf)

Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, advance online publication 21.03.2019

Precariousness among solo self-employed workers

Solo self-employed in Germany and the Netherlands: Findings by Karin Schulze Buschoff (WSI) and Witeke Conen (University of Amsterdam) reveal a highly precarious situation in terms of earnings and social security. As compared to the Netherlands, German solo self-employed workers face higher risks concerning income and old age poverty.

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Journal of European Integration

Patterns of pooling and delegation after the crisis: old and new asymmetries

European integration after the euro crisis: Restoration of national control or upgrade of supranational autonomy? Daniel Seikel (WSI) analyses the key institutions of the reformed European economic governance,finding that control over risk-reducing and market-making institutions has been delegated to supranational institutions whereas control over risk-sharing and market-correcting institutions has remained in the hands of the member states.

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WSI Study 17, 01/2019


German and Dutch works councils enjoy similar far-reaching legal rights and work in a similar context. A large online-survey among 1138 German and 638 Dutch works councils, however, reveals strong differences in strategies, relations and (in)formal ways of interaction.

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European Journal of Industrial Relations Vol. 24 (4)

The manufacturing sector: Still an anchor for pattern bargaining within and across countries?

Collective wage bargaining systems in manufacturing in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden are confronted with two key challenges: increased cross-country competition between Northern European companies operating within the same high-value/high-cost segment of the market; and the competitive pressures resulting from increased east-north integration. Thorsten Schulten (WSI), Torsten Müller (ETUI), Jon Eric Dølvik (Fafo) and Christian Ibsen (Michigan State University) show how the responses of collective actors to these two challenges shaped the development of wage bargaining systems.

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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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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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