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 book publication

It’s Basic Income. The global debate

Is a Universal Basic Income the answer to an increasingly precarious job landscape? Could it bring greater financial freedom for women, tackle the issue of unpaid but essential work, cut poverty and promote greater choice? Or is it a dead-end utopian ideal that distracts from more practical and cost-effective solutions? Among the authors: Anke Hassel (WSI), defending the position that unconditional basic income is a dead end.

more ...

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)

European Social Observatory (OSE)

Occupational Welfare in Europe

In a recently published book on occupational welfare in Europe, Florian Blank (WSI) discusses recent developments in the field of pensions and unemployment-related schemes in Germany. In his article he disentangles the complex state of occupational welfare in the German system of welfare provision and industrial relations.

More about the book
chapter by Florian Blank (pdf)


Daniel Seikel, Dorothee Spannagel (WSI): Activation and in-work poverty

Employment - the best route out of poverty?

In-work poverty is on the rise in many European countries. At the same time, labour market policies focus predominantly on activation measures. Using EU-SILC and OECD data, the authors show that active labour market polices with a stronger focus on demanding than on enabling strategies lead to higher in-work poverty rates.

information on the book (pdf)

Call for applications


The Hans Boeckler Foundation (HBS) is pleased to announce the Hans Boeckler Doctoral Fellowship for 2018-2019. In May, a committee will award one fellowship. The deadline for applications is April 15, 2018. The residential fellowships will be awarded to graduate students engaged in dissertation projects related to the Foundations research and policy consulting program and to the on-going work of its researchers.

more ...


WSI Policy Brief Nr. 19, 01/2018

Millions of workers are denied minimum wage

In 2016, 2,7 Million workers in Germany received less than the minimum wage of 8,50€ per hour. This comes up to 9,8% of people who are entitled to receive it after the minimum wage law that came into force in 2015. The highest rates of avoidance by employers are found in private households (42,6%), hotel and catering industry (38,0%) and retail (19,5%).

Article at Deutsche Welle (English)
WSI Policy Brief 19 (German)


Social Europe, 01/2018

Addressing Social Equality in Europe

The recent wave of mistrust towards political systems in the Western world points out social inequality as the defining issue of our time. A new dossier of Social Europe in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) investigates various aspects of inequality with a European perspective.


Politische Sociali/Social Policies, 3/2017

Limited Access to Social Benefits

Freedom of movement is one of the core elements of the European project. However, recent developments in the German welfare state are limiting the freedom of EU citizens. This is the conclusion of a new article by Florian Blank (WSI) and Nadine Absenger that has analyzed the access to unemloyment benefits II and social assistance benefits.



WSI Report Nr. 37e, 11/2017

Unequal Opportunities of Living from Assets

Can savingss cushion a loss of income? In the WSI Distribution Report 2017, Anita Tiefensee analyzes for how long households would be able to hold their consumption levels in a scenario of losing all income sources. The results show that 30% of German households would dissave within weeks whilst others could secure their lifestyles for decades.  

WSI Report 37e (pdf, English)


WSI Policy Brief Nr. 17e, 11/2017


With the European Pillar of Social Rights (ESSR), the European Commission aims to strengthen the social dimension of the European Union. Daniel Seikel argues that the proclamation on the ESSR in November 2017 consists of 20 generally worded principles and does not contain specific targets for social policy benefits.

WSI Policy Brief 17e (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 ...

German Politics, online advance 08.09.2017

No Way to Escape Imbalances in the Eurozone?

Germany has increasingly relied on export specialisation as a strategy for economic recovery – a mixed blessing: specialisation in high-quality manufactured goods has preserved the country's competitive edge, but also led to an increasing dependency on exports. Anke Hassel analyses three sources for the over-reliance on export-oriented manufacturing and weak employment in domestic services: industrial relations, social insurance and fiscal federalism.

more ...

Social Europe, 01.09.2017

Activiation Policy fuels In-Work Poverty

The Hartz-Reforms as an example for activation policy are often seen as a major factor of the German labour market boost. While doubts about this effect are growing, a recent study has shown an overproportional increase of in-work poverty in Germany. On the other hand, countries with high expenditures for active labour market policies reduce the in-work poverty risk.

Article on Social Europe (English)
More about the study (pdf, German)


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 ...

Social Europe, 07.08.2017

A Big Legacy: Wealth In Europe

The "Inequality in Europe" series on Social Europe examines the different dimensions of inequality in Europe and what kind of policy mix could help addressing them. Anita Tiefensee (WSI) gives an overview on the current distribution of wealth. The most important source is owner-occupied housing. Another source are wealth transfers - inheritances and gifts, i.e. wealth accumulated without effort. But taxes on gifts and inheritances have tended to decrease in the euro area - a highly problematic development.

more ...


WSI Report 33e, 05/2017


Data from the WSI works councils survey 2015 show that work intensification, performance pressure, overtime hours and insufficient staffing levels are everyday problems in many companies. Restructuring measures and staff shortages significantly increase the workload pressure. The findings uncover the alarmingly weak implementation of risk assessments for psychosocial hazards.

Download (pdf)


New ETUI-Publication

European Trade Unions in a time of crises

Steffen Lehndorff (IAQ), Heiner Dribbusch and Thorsten Schulten (both WSI) are the editors of the new book "Rough Waters: European Trade Unions in a time of crises". Distinguished experts from 11 European countries analyse the develpoment of trade unions in the turbulent times since the early 2000s. The book can be downloaded for free on the ETUI-website.

more information and free download (pdf)

Florian Blank (WSI)

Pension provision: (Still) a public task?

In a recently published contribution to an edited volume, WSI researcher Florian Blank discusses developments in pension policies in Germany. In his article he pays special attention to tendencies of privatization that took place in the German pension system since the 2001 reforms. Furthermore, he addresses the question of how to justify public pension provision.

more information ...


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.

Download (pdf)


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)

Anke Hassel (WSI) Steffen Kampeter (BDA) Marcel Fratzscher (DIW) 30.03.2017

Labour, social policy, investment – What's best for Germany?

Does Germany need to rethink Agenda 2010? In a heated discussion about whether the Agenda 2010 went too far and now needs overhauling, Anke Hassel (WSI) defended the view that policies directly related to Agenda 2010 had created new social risks which needed addressing: “We have all kinds of truly precarious types of employment, which are all connected and now integrated into core areas of industry and lead to permanent marginalisation.”

more ...

WSI Working Paper 208

The Social Progress Protocol of the ETUC

The Social Progress Protocol is a proposal formulated by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). It is a response to judicial decisions of the European Court of Justice on the relationship between fundamental freedoms and collective social rights. The proposal essentially demands a supplementing of European primary law in a way that gives precedence to fundamental social rights in the event of a conflict of laws. Martin Höpner (MPIG Cologne) underscores the justification of the goals pursued by the Social Progress Protocol and makes suggestions on how it can be developed further.

Download (pdf)


Anke Hassel (WSI), Bettina Wagner (Hertie School of Governance)

The EU’s ‘migration crisis’: challenge, threat or opportunity?

The chapter provides an overview of the EU legal framework on asylum and migration, presents statistics on both refugee inflow and intra-EU migration, and summarizes the uncoordinated national responses to the refugee crisis. From their analyses, the authors conclude that - at the policy level - intra-EU migration and asylum seekers are a challenge combined with an opportunity.

Download (pdf)
more information on the book


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

International Review of Applied Economics

The role of uncertainty in the euro crisis – an application of liquidity preference theory

The world financial crisis triggered a rediscovery of the active role fiscal policy can play as a remedy in such situations. During the euro crisis, escalating funding costs in a number of southern eurozone member states and Ireland have called this strategy into question. One interpretation of the euro crisis concentrated on the public debt trends in those countries. Opposing this view, Toralf Pusch (WSI) elaborates the link between rising interest rates on sovereign bonds in the euro crisis and a major feature of the financial crisis - a subdued degree of investor confidence after the Lehman collapse.

more ...


Amanda K. von Koppenfels (University of Kent), Jutta Höhne (WSI)

Gastarbeiter Migration Revisited

Authors from nine countries look at the post-2007 South-North intra-EU migration, compiling in a systematic way quantitative and qualitative analysis. The chapter on the recent Southern EU migration to Germany identifies some parallels between current migration flows and the post-war recruitment of guest workers, although today’s migration is far more highly-skilled. Unlike post-war recruitment, which was intended to be temporary, Germany hopes that today’s migrants will remain and help to solve the lack of skilled work-force.

Download chapter (pdf)
open access to all chapters

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.

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...


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