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Tariff Policy and Industrial Relations

The competence field Tariff Policy and Industrial Relations researches workplace co-determination, the wage-setting process and income policy.

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Industrial relations in Germany are characterised by a dual system of representation. While employees are involved in decision-making in their company, wage agreements are concluded for the sector as a whole. The principle of free collective bargaining charges the representatives of employees and employers with the task of establishing general conditions. The aim is to distribute market incomes in such a way as to secure social cohesion and acceptance of the free market economy on the one hand, while preserving incentives, on the other. At the establishment level, Germany’s democratic works constitution is based on the principle of codetermination by works councils and workers’ representatives on supervisory boards. As representatives of the workforce, works councils are endowed with a statutory role in determining working conditions.

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Sections of the Research Unit

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Cooperation Partners

  • European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO)
  • European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO)
  • European Restructuring Monitor (ERM)
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Hagen Lesch

Dr. Hagen Lesch

Head of the Research Unit Wage Policy and Industrial Relations

Tel: +49 221 4981-778
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Helena Bach

Helena Bach

Economist for Wage Policy and Collective Bargaining

Tel: +49 221 4981-665
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Christoph Schröder

Christoph Schröder

Senior Researcher for Income Policy, Wages and Working Time Policy

Tel: +49 221 4981-773
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Sandra Vogel

Dr. Sandra Vogel

Senior Researcher for Industrial Relations

Tel: +49 221 4981-746
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Studies and contributions

71 results
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Economic policy lessons from historical debates from 1918 to the present
IW-Analyse No. 148 31. March 2022

The Legitimacy of Free Collective Bargaining in Germany

Helena Bach / Hagen Lesch / Sandra Vogel

Since the signing of the Stinnes-Legien Agreement in 1918, the collective bargaining autonomy of Germany’s employers’ associations and trade unions has been the subject of continual political debate and at times its legitimacy even called into question.


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What can Germany learn from France and the United Kingdom?
IW-Analyse No. 145 20. October 2021

Minimum Wage Adjustment and a Living Wage in Germany

Hagen Lesch / Helena Schneider / Christoph Schröder

Germany’s Minimum Wage Act accords a Minimum Wage Commission the task of deciding on a biennial adjustment to the minimum wage. While including an overall assessment, their decision is to be oriented on the development of collective wages.


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A critique of the EU Commission's proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages
IW-Policy Paper No. 25 8. October 2021

Do we need a European minimum wage?

Christoph Schröder

In many countries, a paradigm shift in minimum wage policy is discussed, or it has been implemented already. Instead of protecting employees from exploitation as a lower safety line, the minimum wage is intended to provide an adequate standard of living - if possible without government intervention.


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Are Supplementary Agreements a Cure-all?
IW-Trends No. 2 29. June 2021

Achieving Flexibility Within Collective Bargaining in the Metal and Electrical Industry

Helena Schneider

Companies which are bound by sector-level collective agreements in the metal and electrical industry yet are keen to invest or to protect jobs in times of economic difficulty can negotiate supplementary agreements allowing them to deviate temporarily from the provisions of the sectoral agreements.


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A Heavy Burden on German Industry
IW-Trends No. 2 24. June 2021

An International Comparison of Unit Labour Costs: A Heavy Burden on German Industry

Christoph Schröder

Since 2018 An international comparison reveals the high level of unit labour costs in German manufacturing. In 2020, German unit labour costs were 22 per cent higher than the average in the 27 comparator countries, and 18 per cent above the mean in the rest of the Eurozone.


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