: Issue 06/2021

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp. 435-445

Olaf Struck, Matthias Dütsch, Daniel Fackler, Christian Hohendanner

Labour Market Flexibility Instruments in the Covid-19 Crisis


The potential for flexibility that individuals, companies and societies have determines the extent to which challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, become overburdening crises. Defining flexibility as a potential avoids, on the one hand, a premature approval or rejection of flexibility as an analytical category and, on the other hand, directs attention to resources as the basis of potential for flexible adaptation. This article elucidates the pandemic-related challenges for employees and the emerging inequalities regarding social security and employment security. In contrast to insiders subject to social security contributions, who benefit from short-time or home office work, other persons are characterised by a lack of flexibility, including workers in less protected forms of employment, unemployed outsiders and younger people. From the perspective of educational, labour market and social policy, the challenge is to make proactive investments in resources that promote flexibility to the benefit of both sides of the labour market – employers and employees. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp. 446-453

Alexandra Fedorets, Ralf Himmelreicher

Minimum Wage and Work Intensity – Evidence from Germany


The political debate following the introduction of the minimum wage in the year 2015 considers potential increases in work intensity in the affected wage segments – among other negative consequences of the reform. This expectation is based not just on theory, but also on sporadic international evidence. Indeed, when the marginal value of work increases, employers have an incentive to recoup their increased costs by pushing for greater hourly productivity. In addition, it may be assumed that increased wages may also give an incentive for workers to increase their hourly output. Using the representative employee survey of the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) on self-reported changes in work intensity, the authors empirically examine the adjustments of this threshold. They show that an increase in labour intensity does not happen in the minimum wage segment, but rather in the higher wage segments. In addition, it is revealed that full-time employees and university graduates report more frequent and higher increases in their work intensity than the low-skilled or mini-jobbers, who are more often employed in the low-wage sector. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp. 454-462

Philipp Linden

How Much Money is Appropriate? A Vignette Study on the Acceptance of Sanctions in SGB II


Since the reforms of the Social Code Book II in 2004 /05, sanctions in the minimum income system have been considered a central pillar of the activating welfare state. However, in terms of social policy, it is often debated whether sanctions are generally permissible, since those affected then live (temporarily) below the socio-cultural subsistence level. In addition, the Federal Constitutional Court classified cuts above 30 % of the minimum income benefits as unconstitutional in 2019 and called for a reform process. A broad public acceptance of the changed sanction practice may be achieved if empirical evidence on the perception of such sanctions accompanies the reform process. This article investigates – based on a Vignette analysis – which sanctions are considered acceptable by the population, when hypothetical welfare recipients violate their obligation to cooperate. A majority of the representative German sample (N = 2621) favours sanctions up to 30 % of the minimum income benefit. Sole factors such as low levels of motivation to look for work, missed appointments with the specialist advisors or having a foreign-sounding name significantly increase the acceptance of sanctions amongst the wider public. Especially a combination of these factors increases the acceptance of placing sanctions on welfare recipients. In contrast, the age of the hypothetical benefit recipients plays a marginal role. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp. 463-471

Aline Zucco, Anil Özerdogan

WSI Distribution Report 2021 – The Situation and the Fear of Losing Social Status of the Middle Class


An increase in incomes of those who belong to the middle-income category has led to a slight decline in income inequality in recent years. Given this positive trend, the article examines the situation of the so-called middle class and what was formerly their central fear – the fear of losing social status. Using the SOEP data, the analysis shows that the middle class fear of relegation declined significantly between 2010 and 2019, not least because of the good economic conditions, which also led to a drop in the unemployment rate. Against this backdrop, the question is how the Covid-19 crisis has affected income inequality and fears of losing social status. The data from the HBS survey of the working population indicate that poorer income groups experienced more frequent declines and were also more concerned about their future careers and financial situation. Thus, the positive trend of recent years may have come to a halt as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, which is why income inequality may be on the rise again. There is therefore a need to protect above all the groups most affected by the crisis by improving their qualifications and strengthening their collective bargaining agreements. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp. 472-478

Klaus Schmierl, Pauline Schneider, Olaf Struck

‘Transparent’ Parcel Couriers – Working Conditions and Co-Determination in Courier, Express and Parcel Services


One of the main trends associated with the permanent availability of internet access is the rapid growth of online shopping and home delivery of consumer goods, which as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has spread to almost all consumer goods sectors and to groups of the population previously remote from the internet. Such a constant stream of consumption requires the availability and performance of a specific type of worker: the employee in courier, express and parcel services who – quite literally – has to shoulder the burden of increased order volumes. In this article, the authors present first findings relating to sociology and trade union policy from the qualitative study on digital logistics, work structures and worker participation (Digitale Logistik, Arbeitsstrukturen und Mitbestimmung – DiLAMi), funded by the German Hans Böckler Foundation and conducted by the ISF München and the University of Bamberg. Specifically, extended possibilities of control and growing gaps in the representation of interests of courier workers are arising in the context of digital technology use. In addition, the use of digital technology can simplify work to such an extent that companies can increasingly rely on low-skilled labour in times of labour shortages. The authors conclude that the trends observed in this sector provide further evidence for the growing rise of what can be called ‘digital Taylorism’. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp 479-483

Gerhard Bosch

Further Education in the Corona Crisis


The Covid-19 crisis has led to a serious decline in further training. During the frequently lengthy periods of short-time working, informal on-the-job training was abandoned. Many further training courses were cancelled or postponed, both during the 2020 lockdown and even after restrictions had ended. Groups particularly affected by this collapse of further training included single parents, who were burdened by additional childcare responsibilities, and the poorly qualified. It is worth noting, however, that at least large, cash-rich companies reduced their expenditure on innovation less than in the financial crisis and seem to have carried out the further training required for the business transformation programmes already initiated, albeit under more difficult conditions, such as those created by the now compulsory hygiene measures. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp. 484-486

Jens Boysen-Hogrefe, Stefan Kooths

Covid-19 Legacy Debt: No Game Changer for Fiscal Policy


While the Covid-19 crisis has had a profound impact on German public finances, the debt carrying capacity of the public sector remains unaffected. Also, the debt brakes at the federal and state level do not require redemption schemes that overly restrict fiscal policy makers. Given a redemption period of up to 20 years (2025 to 2045), the future annual consolidation effort amounts to far less than 0.3 percent of GDP. Although the suspension of the debt brake for 2022 was premature and risks promoting more deficit spending at the expense of higher future redemption payments, the overall picture of a manageable fiscal burden of the Covid-19 pandemic remains unaltered. New post-Corona tax instruments are unnecessary as the existing fiscal framework offers sufficient latitude for covering the fiscal legacy of the pandemic. Fair burden sharing of the Covid-19-crisis is rather a question of compensating crisis-induced losses at the firm level that should be financed out of general tax revenues. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 6/2021, pp. 487-488

Sebastian Dullien

Public Debt After the Pandemic: Don’t Panic


Despite the increase in public debt in Germany caused by the pandemic, there is no need to aim for rapid repayment - neither through cuts in government spending nor through higher taxes or a wealth levy. In view of low interest rates, the additional public debt does not represent a burden for public budgets; moreover, it is not excessive in historical or international comparisons. It would therefore make sense to refrain from paying off this debt and instead simply grow out of it. However, since such an approach is not permissible under the constitutional debt brake, it would at least make sense to stretch the length of the repayment periods. more ... (in German)