Compared to many other western industrialised countries, Germany has the
image of being a high-wage economy with a relatively low inequality of
incomes and living standards. This is mainly the result of the German system
of branch-level central collective bargaining (Flächentarifvertrag), where
almost all employees in any sector receive the same basic payment.
Nevertheless, it is not widely known that there is still a large number of
sectors and areas of employment where collectively-agreed basic wages and
salaries are relatively low. This is the main finding of a recent study by
the Institute for Economics and Social Science (Wirtschafts- und
Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut,WSI) on low wages in Germany
("Niedriglöhne. Die unbekannte Realität: Armut trotz Arbeit", Gerd Pohl &
Claus Schäfer (eds), VSA-Verlag Hamburg (1996)). The study was inspired by
the European Commission which, in 1993, adopted an Opinion on an equitable
wage, the main purpose of which was "to outline certain basic principles on
equitable wages, while taking into account social and economic realities".
The agreement was concluded on 11 February 1997 and sets out the ways in
which the financial recovery, growth and modernisation of the Italian rail
system will be brought about in line with the guidelines of the 1991
Directive on the development of Community railways (440/91/EEC). The deal was
signed by the Ministry of Transport, the state railways board (FS), and the
following railway trade union organisations: CGIL (the General Confederation
of Italian Workers); CISL (the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions); UIL
(the Union of Italian Workers); the three confederations' respective sectoral
organisations - Filt-Cgil, Fit-Cisl and Uilt-Uil; and three non-confederal
organisations - Fisafs-Cisal (the autonomous rail trade union), Comu
(theUnited Train Drivers' Committee) and Sma ( the Train Drivers' Trade
Figures from the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (
Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon or NHO) show that over 530,000 working days
were lost in industrial conflict during the 1996 wage negotiations. These
figures cover only private sector companies which are members of NHO, but
nearly all industrial conflicts in 1996 took place within this area. This is
the highest number of working days lost since 1986, when Norway experienced a
major lockout in the private sector. In 1996, lawful strikes accounted for
all the lost working days, and the number of working days lost in strikes
alone (ie, excluding lock-outs) is thus the highest since the 1930s. The
major strikes all came in the private sector and among unions affiliated to
the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, or
LO). The Government did not, as often before, intervene to stop strikes with
compulsory arbitration. Three strikes accounted for the majority of lost
working days. These came in the metal industry, the hotel and restaurant
industry and in the electrical installation industry.
Some Portuguese sectors have been characterised by a widespread move away
from standard, regular and permanent jobs towards temporary forms of
employment, including irregular and casual work, homeworking and certain
forms of self-employment. These developments are the result of an interplay
between macroeconomic conditions, company strategy and labour legislation.
However, pressure is mounting amongst the social partners to counter further
fragmentation of standard employment statuses.
Late in 1996, Parliament passed legislation providing for changes in the
Employment Security Act that aroused the anger of the trade unions. Although
most of the new provisions apply from 1 January 1997, the most controversial
modification, in Section 2 of the Act, will not come into force until 1 July.
This will give trade unions and employers more time to adapt to the new rule
in the legislation which deals with the level of central bargaining and
In January 1997, the cement company, Blue Circle (BCC), and two of Britain's
largest trade unions, the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and the
General Municipal and Boilermakers Union (GMB), agreed what has been
described as a "ground breaking" deal which gives a guarantee of job
security, in return for pay restraint and more flexible working arrangements.
Both the unions and the Labour Party see the agreement as a model for future
employee relations, which could go some way towards reviving the fortunes of
the British economy.
The Institute for Economics and Social Science (Wirtschafts- und
Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI) has recently published its annual
examination of the previous collective bargaining round. It paints a rather
mixed picture of 1996, a year in which collective bargaining was overshadowed
by continuing relatively poor economic performance and a further increase in
unemployment. GDP grew by only 1.4% over the year, while at the end of the
year more than 4 million people were officially registered as unemployed.
For the first time since 1960, the Belgian social partners have failed to
reach an intersectoral pay agreement and have instead accepted government
imposition of measures on employment and maximum pay increases. This
development runs counter to all traditions of free collective bargaining and
the autonomy of both sides of industry. It also appears to reinforce the
trend towards sector-level bargaining, away from intersectoral or
central-level bargaining, thereby widening the disparities between strong and
In recent years pressure has mounted on all parties involved to rethink and
revise the traditional policies and practices of Greek industrial relations
as well as to promote social dialogue between employers and employees. As a
result of changing conditions, some believe that a new era in industrial
relations and social dialogue has been inaugurated in Greece.
The issue of wage flexibility as a means of promoting employment growth was
initially put forward by the ex-president of Confindustria (the most
important Italian employers' association), Luigi Abete, as a problem which
had not been adequately dealt with in the 1993 income policy agreement. CISL,
one of the three main trade union confederations, later took up the wage
flexibility issue and proposed flexibility in starting wages (the so-called
"entrance salary") as a means of tackling the extremely serious employment
crisis in some southern regions of Italy.
Eurofound's representativeness studies are designed to allow the European Commission to identify the ‘management and labour’ whom it must consult under article 154 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This series consists of studies of the representativeness of employer and worker organisations in various sectors.
This series reports on developments in minimum wage rates across the EU, including how they are set and how they have developed over time in nominal and real terms. The series explores where there are statutory minimum wages or collectively agreed minimum wages in the Member States, as well as minimum wage coverage rates by gender.
Eurofound’s work on COVID-19 examines the far-reaching socioeconomic implications of the pandemic across Europe as they continue to impact living and working conditions. A key element of the research is the e-survey, conducted in three rounds – in April and July 2020 and in March 2021. This is complemented by the inclusion of research into the ongoing effects of the pandemic in much of Eurofound’s other areas of work.
The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) launched in 1990 and is carried out every five years, with the latest edition in 2015. It provides an overview of trends in working conditions and quality of employment for the last 30 years. It covers issues such as employment status, working time duration and organisation, work organisation, learning and training, physical and psychosocial risk factors, health and safety, work–life balance, worker participation, earnings and financial security, work and health, and most recently also the future of work.
The European Restructuring Monitor has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This series includes its restructuring-related databases (events, support instruments and legislation) as well as case studies and publications.
Eurofound’s Flagship report series 'Challenges and prospects in the EU' comprise research reports that contain the key results of multiannual research activities and incorporate findings from different related research projects. Flagship reports are the major output of each of Eurofound’s strategic areas of intervention and have as their objective to contribute to current policy debates.
Eurofound’s European Company Survey (ECS) maps and analyses company policies and practices which can have an impact on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as the development of social dialogue in companies. This series consists of outputs from the ECS 2019, the fourth edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2004–2005 as the European Survey on Working Time and Work-Life Balance.
This series reports on and updates latest information on the involvement of national social partners in policymaking. The series analyses the involvement of national social partners in the implementation of policy reforms within the framework of social dialogue practices, including their involvement in elaborating the National Reform Programmes (NRPs).
This series reports on the new forms of employment emerging across Europe that are driven by societal, economic and technological developments and are different from traditional standard or non-standard employment in a number of ways. This series explores what characterises these new employment forms and what implications they have for working conditions and the labour market.
The European Company Survey (ECS) is carried out every four to five years since its inception in 2004–2005, with the latest edition in 2019. The survey is designed to provide information on workplace practices to develop and evaluate socioeconomic policy in the EU. It covers issues around work organisation, working time arrangements and work–life balance, flexibility, workplace innovation, employee involvement, human resource management, social dialogue, and most recently also skills use, skills strategies and digitalisation.