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The Rise of Precarious Employment in Germany

Precarious Work

ISBN: 978-1-78743-288-8, eISBN: 978-1-78743-287-1

Publication date: 19 December 2017


Long considered the classic coordinated market economy featuring employment security and relatively little employment precarity, the German labor market has undergone profound changes in recent decades. We assess the evidence for a rise in precarious employment in Germany from 1984 to 2013. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel through the Luxembourg Income Study, we examine low-wage employment, working poverty, and temporary employment. We also analyze changes in the demographics and the education/skill level of the German labor force. Although employment overall has increased, there has been a simultaneous significant increase in earnings and wage inequality. Moreover, there has been a clear increase in all three measures of precarious employment. The analyses reveal that models including a wide variety of independent variables – demographic, education/skill, job/work characteristics, and region – cannot explain the rise of precarious employment. Instead, we propose institutional change is the most plausible explanation. In addition to reunification and major social policy and labor market reforms, we highlight the dramatic decline of unionization among German workers. We conclude that while there are elements of stability to the German coordinated market economy, Germany increasingly exhibits substantial dualization, liberalization, inequality, and precarity.




Direct correspondence to David Brady, School of Public Policy, University of California, INTS 4133, 900 University Ave., Riverside, CA 92521; This project was partially supported by a grant from the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK and the J.P. Morgan Foundation. We thank Mo Kaiser and Sigurt Vitols for assistance on prior versions of this project. We thank RSW editors and reviewers, and Dalia Ben-Galim for suggestions. Data provided by the LIS.


Brady, D. and Biegert, T. (2017), "The Rise of Precarious Employment in Germany", Kalleberg, A.L. and Vallas, S.P. (Ed.) Precarious Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 31), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 245-271.



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