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Atypical employment over the life cycle

Ronald Bachmann (RWI ‐ Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Essen, Germany)
Rahel Felder (RWI ‐ Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Essen, Germany)
Marcus Tamm (Hochschule der Bundesagentur für Arbeit (HdBA), Mannheim, Germany)

Evidence-based HRM

ISSN: 2049-3983

Article publication date: 22 April 2020

Issue publication date: 19 May 2020




This paper analyses how the employment histories of cohorts born after World War II in Germany have changed. A specific focus is on the role of atypical employment in this context.


This paper uses data from the adult cohort of the National Educational Panel Study and presents descriptive evidence on employment patterns for different cohorts. In addition, a sequence analysis of employment trajectories illustrates key aspects related to the opportunities and risks of atypical employment.


Younger cohorts are characterised by acquiring more education, by entering into employment at a higher age and by experiencing atypical employment more often. The latter is associated with much higher employment of women for younger cohorts. The sequence analysis reveals that the proportion of individuals whose entry into the labour market is almost exclusively characterised by atypical employment rises significantly across the cohorts. Moreover, a substantial part of the increase in atypical employment is due to the increased participation of women, with part-time jobs or mini-jobs playing an important role in re-entering the labour market after career breaks.


The most important contribution of this article to the existing literature lies in the life course perspective taken for different birth cohorts. The findings are of great interest to the general debate about the success of the German labour market in recent decades and its implications for individual labour-market histories, but also about rising income inequality at about the same time.



This article is partly based on a research report for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affaires (BMAS) for the preparation of the 5th Poverty and Wealth Report of the Federal Government (RWI 2016) and is a translated and streamlined version of Bachmann et al. (2017). We acknowledge funding from the BMAS for the original research report. Declaration of interest: none.


Bachmann, R., Felder, R. and Tamm, M. (2020), "Atypical employment over the life cycle", Evidence-based HRM, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 195-213.



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