This paper is one of a series of studies commissioned by the International Labour Office (ILO) in 2015, under a project entitled “Post-crisis social dialogue: Good practices in the EU-28”, which is implemented by the ILO with funding from the European Union (EU). The project documents and analyzes emerging trends and good practices in social dialogue and industrial relations in EU Member States. The project focuses specifically on developments since 2013, as countries began to exit the crisis, and examines the role played by social dialogue in promoting sustainable reforms and jobs-rich, inclusive growth.

The research component involved eleven in-depth country studies carried out by reputed national scholars, as well as the drafting of a comparative analysis. A tripartite knowledgesharing conference, hosted at the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris on 20 May, 2016 provided a forum for discussion of the draft papers. The conference brought together national and international stakeholders, including government ministers and high-level officials, representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations and of regional and international organizations, including the ILO and EU institutions such as the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Eurofound. Participants discussed recent developments in the industrial relations landscape and exchanged experiences of social dialogue in the ‘post-crisis’ period. The revised country summary reports and the comparative analysis have since been compiled in an edited, peer-reviewed volume, entitled Talking through the crisis: Social dialogue and industrial relations trends in selected EU countries, to be published by the ILO in March 2017.

This study, by Hagen Lesch, Sandra Vogel and Paula Hellmich, examines the role of social dialogue and collective bargaining in facilitating the so-called “jobs miracle” in Germany, which saw a drop in unemployment during the peak years of the economic and financial crisis. This was made possible through a combination of flexible use of collective bargaining and extensive labour market reforms to introduce more flexible forms of employment in the 2000s. In the absence of a formal structure for national tripartite social dialogue, the social partners were able to avail of “crisis summits” to stimulate dialogue on measures to stabilize the economy at the height of the crisis. These summits brought together representatives of government, employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as of financial institutions, to agree on measures aimed at sustaining consumption and safeguarding employment. The authors conclude that these informal processes for facilitating dialogue, coupled with an industrial relations system built upon the principle of free collective bargaining between employers’ and workers’ organizations, were highly effective in dealing with the impact of the crisis in Germany.

The responsibility for opinions expressed in this paper rests solely with its authors and ist publication does not constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office or the European Union.