Minimum wage Image

Germany’s first-ever nationwide minimum wage is to be introduced on January 1, 2015, at the initial level of 8.50 euros per hour. It will apply to all workers with the exception of apprentices, volunteers and young people under the age of 18 who have not completed vocational training. There are also special provisions for trainees and the long-term unemployed. Roughly 13.7 percent of all employees – 4.6 million people – are likely to be affected. By taking this step, the government is seriously interfering in the wage-formation process. This is an issue particularly in the eastern region of Germany, where nearly twice as many workers will be affected as in the west. To reduce the share of employees affected to the same level as in the west, the minimum wage in eastern Germany would have to be set at no more than 7.00 euros per hour.

The minimum wage poses a serious challenge to the labour market, particularly in the east. It is clear from the experience of France and the United Kingdom that a more moderate approach would have been advisable. When the UK introduced a minimum wage in 1999, only 5.5 percent of employees were affected. Furthermore, the Kaitz index – the ratio of the minimum wage to the average wage – was 42 percent, which is lower than it will be in Germany. Assuming that hourly wages will increase at an annual rate of 2.5 percent, Germany’s Kaitz index will be 46 percent at the beginning of 2015. While France’s Kaitz index is substantially higher, at 62 percent, wage subsidies are provided to employers in France to reduce the payroll costs of low-wage earners. This costs the government more than 20 billion euros per year.

Labour market risks can be mitigated by exempting certain problematic labour market groups from the minimum wage or paying them a reduced wage. One positive note is that the long-term unemployed will be exempt for six months. That period should be extended to 12 months, in line with comparable collective bargaining agreements. After six months, one might consider a gradual increase to the statutory minimum of 8.50 euros per hour. However, the federal government should adjust the lower age limit. In the case of young people who have not completed vocational training, the minimum wage should not apply until they reach the age of 21; this would prevent individuals from an educationally disadvantaged background from choosing to forgo training.

It would be even better to exempt all career beginners who have not completed vocational training. Moreover, the proposed exceptions do not go far enough in the case of internships related to training or university studies. Unless adequate exceptions are made for the weakest groups of employees, over the medium term the federal government will have to subsidise the minimum wage, as is the case in France.

Provisions for adjustments in the minimum wage also need to be revised. The responsible commission should not base such adjustments only on changes in pay rates, but also on developments in the labour market and the economy at large. Its recommendations should always be based on a scientific assessment of the effects of the minimum wage. Provisions to that effect should be included in the minimum-wage law.

IW policy paper

Hagen Lesch / Alexander Mayer / Lisa Schmid: Das deutsche Mindestlohngesetz – Eine erste ökonomische Bewertung

IconDownload | PDF

Contact

Arbeitslosigkeit
iwd, 18 February 2016

Unemployment Two of every three new jobs go to womenArrow

Unemployment often has a stronger impact on women than men, especially in southern Europe. Yet the situation gradually seems to be turning around, in spite of the euro and economic crisis. And in traditional industrialised countries such as Germany, women are the clear winners in the employment upturn. more

Unemployment
iwd, 21 May 2015

Unemployment EU regions are drifting apartArrow

The gap between unemployment levels in the various regions of the European Union has widened over the last ten years. While the number of job seekers has fallen in Germany and Eastern European countries, the situation in some parts of Southern Europe has deteriorated dramatically. more

Comparison of labour costs and unit labour costs
iwd, 15 January 2015

Comparison of labour costs and unit labour costs No “wage dumping” in GermanyArrow

Both at home and abroad, Germany has been accused in many quarters of what is commonly referred to in Germany as “wage dumping”, or paying excessively low wages. However, a look at the manufacturing industry – which is at the heart of international exchange and competition – shows no evidence that wages have been kept at an excessively low level. more