: Issue 06/2020

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 403-410

Sebastian Dullien, Silke Tober, Achim Truger

Ways out of the Economic Crisis: The Balancing Act between Economic Stabilisation and Socio-Ecological Transformation


The article analyses the package presented by the German government in June 2020 to combat the economic consequences of the corona pandemic with respect to its ability to stabilize the economy, on the one hand, and the social and ecological transformation of the German economy, on the other. It is shown that the measures to support growth with their strong focus on boosting consumption through a temporarily lower sales tax are not optimal. The use of other instruments, such as transfer payments, could have set stronger impulses and achieved a greater effect. Moreover, due to the relatively low volume, future spending will only make a limited contribution to limiting climate change. All in all, the package should nevertheless provide a relevant economic stimulus and at the same time send important signals for the social and economic transformation. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 411-417

Florian Butollo

Socio-ecological Transformation of the Global Economy or Trade War by Other Means? On the Transformation of Global Production Networks after the Covid-19 Crisis


Shortages of medical equipment and supply parts for industrial production during the Covid-19 crisis have triggered a discussion on the vulnerability of global production networks. The responses mostly focus on increasing the resilience of manufacturing through a “reshoring” of production, a diversification of supply chains, and the build-up of inventory. This article reveals that many interventions depart from erroneous assumptions on the structure of global manufacturing as the reasons for economic problems in the wake of Covid-19 are not mainly rooted in excessive dependence on foreign suppliers, but in the market-driven accumulation of risks through just-in-time production and overly complex supply chains. A response to such difficulties should be put in the context of a socio-ecological transformation of the economy that is necessary not only in order to make global production networks more resilient, but to enhance “societal resilience” against the challenges of climate change and increasing social inequality. An important component of a response to Covid-19 thus should consist of strengthening the “foundational economy”, i. e. goods and services related to housing, energy, water, health, education and care. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 418-426

Silke Ötsch, René Lehweẞ-Litzmann

Concepts and Prospects of a Social-Ecological Transformation: What Does the Corona Crisis Change?


Multiple crises threaten the reproductive capacity of the environment and society. Whether these crises will be solved within the framework of a synergetic solution strategy, or as competing issues, or not at all, is just as unclear as their interactions with the Corona crisis. Recent propositions have been put forward to tackle the crises by way of New Deal policies, which stand for comprehensive political reforms with a caring ambition. However, initiatives such as the European Green Deal and the Green New Deal differ considerably, e. g. in the roles they attribute to coordination by markets and to economic growth. This article reviews the potential of these approaches and their acceptability from the perspective of a population facing existential socio-economic risks under the effects of the Corona pandemic. Recent surveys show that although the majority are aware of the general need for ecological reform, a decisive factor for this kind of consciousness seems to be not so much the level of prosperity, but the maintenance of the basic functioning of life. This underscores the relevance of politically combining ecological and social elements, and also indicates the possibility of a society that respects both ecological boundaries and social standards. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 427-437

Lorenzo Cicchi, Philipp. Genschel, Anton Hemerijck, Mohamed Nasr

EU Solidarity in Times of Covid-19


The authors use new survey evidence (April 2020) to assess public support for European solidarity in 13 EU member states and the UK. The analysis yields a number of findings, among them: support for solidarity varies by geographical distance, by issue, and by the perceived net-benefit to the own country ; support is motivated by expectations of reciprocal benefit rather than feelings of moral obligation or common identity ; in terms of instrumentation, most respondents prefer permanent EU arrangements of risk and burden sharing to ad hoc mutual assistance ; a relative majority of respondents prefers a Europe that protects to a market Europe or a global Europe aspiring to international leadership. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 438-444

Günther Schmid, Wolfgang Schroeder

European Labour Market Policy after the Crisis


The crises of recent years, which have repeatedly given momentum to the development of labour market policy at the European level, can be characterised as learning processes. With the initiatives towards a European unemployment insurance scheme, a European minimum wage level and against youth unemployment, the EU has become an actor in the field of labour market policy that attempts to complement and support national activities. The Covid-19 crisis could be a window of opportunity to further develop the European Social Fund (ESF) through certain elements of employment insurance. The aim should not only be to respond in European solidarity to cyclical labour market crises, but also to enhance the national capacities for social protection against income risks throughout the whole work-life course. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 445-453

Wolfgang Merkel

Who Rules in the Crisis? Democracy in Times of Pandemic


The first pandemic that the Federal Republic of Germany experienced put democracy to a tough test. There was no experience, routines or even clear legal norms to guide the political elite and institutions. How well has democracy coped with the crisis?

The balance is mixed. The executive branch has functioned well and acted courageously. Under the implicit, but constitutionally undeclared state of emergency, basic rights were suspended. In return, infection and mortality rates were kept comparatively low. The legal action of the executive was based on a basic law on infection control. In normative theory, this is a paper-thin legitimation for suspending fundamental rights. A controversial parliamentary debate did not take place. Parliament complied with the wants of the executive. Sovereign is he who decides on the exception. In fact, that was the executive branch. The third-order sovereign, the executive, surpassed the parliament, the second-order sovereign. The first order sovereign, the people, overwhelmingly complied and there were no protests or demonstrations. If such compliance becomes the recurring mode of governing democracy in crises, democracy is at risk. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 454-461

Stephan Lessenich

To Make Live and to Let Die: Vulnerability in the Focus of Politics


In the context of the Corona crisis, the concepts of vulnerability and vulnerable groups have become prominent in public discourse. Contrary to the common understanding that this semantic conjuncture indicates a new mode of “politics for life”, the article argues that the current crisis management is characterised by its social selectivity and the hierarchisation of what is meant by “a worthwhile life”. While an alternative policy vis-à-vis the Corona virus, following Robert Castel’s concept of vulnerability, would aim to tackle social endangerment by institutional means, a political strategy adapted to Judith Butler’s conception would rather opt for increasing social awareness for the fundamental vulnerability of life and the body. In this sense, it is only through the acceptance of this basic social fact that a collective process of dealing with the specific vulnerabilities of different persons and social positions might become ­possible. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 462-467

Markus Promberger

Resilience: What can Organisations and Governments Learn from the Corona Crisis?


This article discusses the developments during the Corona crisis from the perspective of institutional resilience. It explores the factors which constitute such resilience, and how they can be extended. Together with technical and organisational redundancy, resource diversity and the availability of common goods, solidarity is at the focus, being a crucial source of social resilience. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 468-471

Berthold Vogel

Covid-19 – a Wake-up Call? A Plea for New Policies on Public Goods


Covid-19 has shown that the future of democratic society depends on our willingness and ability to invest in public goods. The article makes a plea for strategies that will strengthen the public sector and those employed there. Investments must take into account the local situation and the necessity for new regional infrastructure and community cohesion. Those who back these public resources must put more trust in the soundness of our institutions rather than the solidarity of its citizens, although the two aspects cannot be separated, as is illustrated by the ongoing discussions about the relationship between the State and civil society. However, a new policy on public goods must build on the sustainability of the institutions and ensure that they are constitutionally and democratically sound – instead of relying on the organisation of moral communities and the goodwill of the citizens in the hope that the crisis will bring forth better individuals. Covid-19 as a wake-up call? That is not an appeal to higher levels of insight, but rather a practical call to strengthen and utilise already existing resources in our society. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 472-484

Malte Lübker, Aline Zucco

What Matters? The Corona Pandemic as an Impulse to Reassess System-Relevant Sectors


To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the German government implemented laws to restrict social and economic activities in March 2020. Only essential workers were encouraged to keep on working since their jobs were crucial to maintain the critical infrastructure. In this article, the authors focus on employment and in particular on the wages of these essential workers. Using the linked employer-employee data set (LIAB) of the IAB, they apply descriptive and regression analysis to show that the demographic characteristics of essential workers differ from those that command high prestige in normal times. They find that essential workers are disproportionately women working in part-time and primarily middle-skilled workers. Moreover, they observe that wages within critical infrastructure are quite heterogeneous: some sectors have wages far above, while others have wages far below the average. This finding holds when controlling for human capital endowment. The authors conclude that the crisis has revealed the relevance of these sectors and underlines the importance of re-evaluating pay level sectors. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 485-492

Andreas Hövermann, Bettina Kohlrausch

Social Inequality and Loss of Income in the Covid-19 Crisis – Findings from an Employment Survey


The article analyses the prevalence of income cuts during the Covid-19 pandemic and their impact on already existing social inequality in Germany using representative data from two waves (N = 6309) of the “labor force survey“. Analyses reveal that almost one third of Germany´s working population have had to suffer reductions in income, with all the associated fears and worries. By applying a set of logistic regressions, the authors show that certain groups are noticeably more often affected: respondents with an immigrant background, those with children, men, and also respondents with already lower incomes. Freelancers and self-employed persons were particularly often affected – especially at the beginning of the pandemic, while civil servants report almost no cuts in income. Respondents working in co-determined companies also show lower financial losses. Finally, the analyses reveal the occurrence of income cuts in specific sectors such as the hospitality industry and the manufacturing industry. Analysed according to region, the cuts can be identified as being most prevalent in Baden-Württemberg – particularly at the beginning of the pandemic ; while in Brandenburg cuts have been much less common throughout the course of the ­pandemic. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 493-500

Nicole Mayer-Ahuja, Richard Detje

“Solidarity” in Times of Covid-19: Towards New Politics of Labour?


Ever since the Corona crisis started, a plea for “solidarity” has rung out – not in terms of labour movement ideals, but of social cohesion, beyond class and party. However, some measures have been in line with demands unions have long fought for in vain. The brake on state debts and sanctions of the unemployment insurance ( Hartz IV) have been temporarily suspended, and job protection through subsidised short-time work has reached an all-time peak. The social problems associated with wage labour, however, have been aggravated: wages have been cut or lost, the polarisation of working time and the “crisis of reproduction” has gained momentum, especially for those working from home. Old lines of division among working people remain – even for the “heroes of everyday life”, no initiatives have been taken to stop the precarisation of employment. To what extent does the crisis still promote the emergence of new forms of solidarity, given that labour and the reproduction of labour power are now considered “systemically relevant”; that conflicts about the distribution of time and social wealth cross the borders of companies and economic sectors ; and that reliable public services have proved essential for saving lives, thus challenging strategies of privatisation and economisation? more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 501-507

Peter Birke, Felix Bluhm

The Scandal and Its Consequences A Different View of the Abolition of Subcontracting in the German Meatpacking Industry


As a result of the massive spread of Covid-19 infections in the German meatpacking industry, the abysmal working and living conditions of the almost exclusively migrant workers have been brought into the spotlight of media attention. While public discourse centres its hopes on state interventions, namely in the form of abolishing subcontracting, this article calls such perspectives into question by pointing to the complex terrain of informalisation and precarisation on which the meatpacking companies operate. In contrast to the dominant description of employees as passive victims, the text highlights different forms of labour unrest that have become visible in recent years. Based on this, it discusses which perspectives for workers and trade union politics are opened up by current disputes. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 508-512

Jörg Köhlinger, Jakob Habermann

What Comes after the Pandemic? Challenges for the Trade Union Management, Tariff and Organisation Policies of IG Metall


As a result of the Corona pandemic, the IG Metall is working under more difficult conditions: whereas companies are threatening and in some cases are also attempting to assert job cuts in the slipstream of the crisis, many of the tried and tested forms and instruments of trade union work are not available, or only with limitations. Therefore, the question arises of how industrial trade unions can remain visible as organisations under pandemic conditions and against the background of the transformation of industry come out of the defensive position in their central fields of action. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2020, pp. 513-518

Sven Rahner, Michael Schulze, Martin Ehlert

Further Training Offensives in and after the Crisis: Now More than Ever!


Given that the corona crisis has accelerated structural changes in the economy, it will become a key task for German labour market policy to address both cyclical and structural challenges. In this context, continuous education and further training are of pivotal importance. At the same time, closed further education institutions and a lack of digital alternatives lead to postponed further education needs and the already existing entrenched inequalities in the access to further training opportunities. The article votes for a resolute pursual of the social-investment path already embarked upon in recent years towards a more preventive and enabling labour-market policy, especially for learning and working in times of constant uncertainty. more … (in German)