WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022

: issue 02/2022

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 87-95

Hajo Holst, Steffen Niehoff

Covid-19, Social Class and Labour Politics. How Workers Experience their Employer’s Handling of the Pandemic


Based on the Working World Monitor “Working in the Corona Crisis” (Arbeiten in der Corona-Krise), this article examines how dependent employees experience their employer’s handling of the pandemic in terms of labour policy (Arbeitspolitik). Levels of satisfaction with the employers’ handling of the corona crisis indicate striking class inequalities: It is lowest among service workers and production workers – those classes that, among wage earners, suffer most from the negative consequences of Covid-19. However, the less positive assessment of employers’ handling of the pandemic is not – as regression analysis shows – due to production and service workers being more affected by health risks or economic burdens. Rather, inequalities in perceptions of employers’ labour policies are responsible. Regardless of class, evaluations of corona-related labour policies are the most important determinant of workers’ satisfaction with employer actions in the pandemic. The lower level of satisfaction with employers during the pandemic is grounded in the fact that service and production workers are less likely to feel well informed by their employer, more likely to experience a participation deficit, less likely to perceive the distribution of risks and burdens within the company as fair and more likely to feel inadequately protected from the virus at their workplace. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 96-106

Tanja Buch et al.

Regional Labour Market Disparities during the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic


The increase in unemployment as a result of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic varied considerably amongst the 401 cities and administrative districts in Germany. This applies to the severity of the initial shock to the labour market as well as the subsequent development of the recovery throughout autumn 2020. For this time frame a sequence analysis identified four clusters of regional developments in unemployment, ranging from favourable to unfavourable developments in the first seven months of the pandemic. The results from an ordered logistic regression analysis indicated that pre-existing regional disparities were reinforced or intensified during the first wave of the pandemic. There is a correlation between the probability of an unfavourable development in the crisis and a structural weakness in the region, locations in east Germany and regions with higher rates of unemployment before the crisis. Moreover, results show that labour markets in cities and those places with a greater share of employees in the hospitality sector belonged to a cluster that fared worse. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 107-118

Eva Kirner et al.

Empirical Findings on the Conceptual Debate around Digitalisation and Lean Management


This article takes the conceptual debate about the relationship between the rationalisation concepts of lean management and digitalisation as an opportunity for an empirical review. The findings in digitalisation-active companies show that the Industry 4.0 discourse has triggered a wave of digitalisation that is more than a short-term fad. In practice, this concerns lean structures that usually only comprise individual lean elements and are primarily applied in certain areas in the production. In operational reality, there are diverse, sometimes contradictory interactions between lean management and digitalisation, since different lean structures meet manifold digitalisation priorities in various operational areas. First, intensive experience with lean management can have a reinforcing effect on digitalisation and (where available) is seen as a decisive prerequisite for successful digitalisation. Second, digitalisation can also trigger standardisation and restructuring according to lean concepts and third, previous lean effects can be enhanced by additional flexibility potential. In no case does digitalisation hinder or destroy lean structures. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 119-128

Paul Severin Löwe, Peter Valet

Public Sector Reforms. Implications for Civil Servants and Public Employees from 1993 to 2018


Major reforms have changed the face of the German civil service since the 1990s. We know that extensive downsizing resulted from large-scale privatisation throughout the public sector and that a growing number of vacant positions were filled only on a part-time or temporary basis. So far, we have little insight into whether the entire public sector was affected by these developments or whether the consequences were directed at certain subgroups. To answer these questions, the authors have reprocessed registry data from the Federal Statistical Office for the years 1993–2018 and analysed it separately for civil servants and employees at the federal level, state level, municipal levels and by gender. The results indicate that all groups that we looked at were affected by the reforms but to considerably varying degrees. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 129-136

Sophie Altschul et al.

Working Students (Werkstudierende) and Trade Unions


At many university locations, working students (Werkstudierende) have become a highly relevant form of student employment for companies and trade unions alike. To date, however, they have not been the focus of labour and industrial sociology, university research or even debates on union organising. This article outlines the findings of a research project on the work situation, work values and trade union orientation of working students in several large companies in the metal and electrical industry in southern Germany. The study shows that the employment situation of working students is both privileged and precarious. Relatively high earnings and qualified job profiles are not always matched by appropriate pay scale groupings and the perception within the company and in the trade unions is of a marginal workforce. Even when the working students are a member of a union, they have a pronounced distance to the union and internal co-determination. In the light of the increasing academisation of the world of work, the article argues for a stronger focus on this group of employees and improved representation of working students in the trade unions. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 137-147

Thorsten Schulten, WSI-Tarifarchiv

Annual Report 2021: German Collective Bargaining in the Second Year of the Covid-19 Pandemic


The current annual collective bargaining report of the WSI Collective Agreement Archive contains a comprehensive analysis of the 2021 bargaining round and gives an overview of the demands and results as well as a calculation of the annual wage increases. In 2021 collectively agreed wages grew on average 1.7 per cent in nominal terms. In view of an inflation rate of 3.1 per cent, workers covered by collective agreements had to accept real wage losses of 1.4 per cent on average. In 2022, collectively agreed wages are likely to rise more strongly again, but a wage-price spiral is not in sight. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 148-159

Malte Lübker, Thorsten Schulten

WSI Minimum Wage Report 2022: Towards a New Minimum Wage Policy in Germany and Europe


The WSI Minimum Wage Report contains current data on minimum wages from 37 countries in Europe and a selected number of non-European countries. After a weak development of minimum wages in 2021, which reflected economic uncertainty triggered by the Corona pandemic, minimum wages increased at a faster pace at the beginning of 2022. The acceleration came against a backdrop of higher inflation rates, which particularly affect employees in the low-wage sector. In addition, a longer-term trend towards a structural increase in minimum wage levels can be observed in many countries. The objective is to raise minimum wages to an adequate level that does not only meet subsistence needs, but is commensurate with socio-cultural participation in society. With its proposal for a European minimum wage directive, the European Commission has taken up this trend and attempted to establish a common set of criteria for adequate minimum wages in the European Union. Central to this effort are the threshold values for the adequacy of minimum wages, which are commonly set at 60 per cent of the median wage and 50 per cent of the mean wage. With the planned increase of Germany’s minimum wage to 12 €, the country would move away from its long-held position of a straggler to re-position itself at the vanguard of the list of those countries establishing an ad­equate minimum wage in Europe. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 160-162

Nicole Mayer-Ahuja

“Transformation” as an Inevitable Constraint? Advocating Labour Politics and Democratisation


How can a situation be overcome in which “transformation” and especially the increased importance of digital technologies triggers a feeling of powerlessness among employees, thus paving the way for a further loss of democratisation in the world of work? In this article it is argued that there is a structural tension between capitalism and democracy which renders progressive labour policies difficult, but not impossible – and which necessitates a continuous struggle for an expansion of democratic influence in the face of the dominant logics of inequality and competition. In order that digitalisation does not result in more control, labour intensification and job loss, it is necessary to counter the notion of a technologically inevitable constraint with labour-policy concepts and strategies: What are the actual applications of digital technology on the shopfloor? Which technologies are actually put to use – and which actors and interests promote them? Where does technological necessity end and corporate strategy begin? And what alternatives can be developed in order to utilise digital technologies in the interests of the working people? more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 2/2022, pp. 163-166

Daniel Hay

Change as the New Normal: Codetermination Secures the Future


Our working environment is undergoing a process of change. The increasing digitalisation and automation, the socio-ecological transformation and not least the Corona Pandemic and its consequences pose enormous challenges for companies and above all employees. In the face of this twofold transformation, codetermination is being permanently challenged by these changes. Although scientific studies carried out by the IMU reveal the positive connection between codetermination and company success – particularly in times of crisis – practice has shown that companies channel energy into avoiding codetermination. Various law firms are currently advertising the legal form of the European Company (Societas Europaea, SE) as a lucrative tool to avoid codetermination in companies. As a consequence an improved regulation of the current law will become inevitable. The article throws light on the intentions of the German government to close existing legislative gaps and shows the need for further action. more … (in German)