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".
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.
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
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.
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.
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
The majority of Norwegian wage agreements are of two years' duration, and the
current settlements will expire during 1998. However, issues relating to
remuneration will be renegotiated at central level in 1997. Most of the
agreements between LO (the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions or
Landsorganisasjonen i Norge) and NHO (the Confederation of Norwegian Business
and Industry or Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon) in the private sector
expire on 31 March 1997, and bargaining is expected to commence in mid-March.
Agreements in the public sector expire one month later. The social partners
have not yet specified their demands, but all the central parties have held
initial bargaining conferences. In this feature, we describe the economic
climate in Norway prior to the wage negotiations, examine the provisional
demands the social partners have put forward, and comment on these demands in
the light of the existing social pact between the central labour market
parties in Norway, the so-called "Solidarity Alternative"
The European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This publication series include the ERM reports, as well as blogs, articles and working papers on restructuring-related events in the EU27 and Norway.
Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) paints a wide-ranging picture of Europe at work across countries, occupations, sectors and age groups. This series consists of findings from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021, an extraordinary edition conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was first carried out in 1990.
This publication series gathers all overview reports on developments in working life, annual reviews in industrial relations and working conditions produced by Eurofound on the basis of national contributions from the Network of Eurofound Correspondents (NEC). Since 1997, these reports have provided overviews of the latest developments in industrial relations and working conditions across the EU and Norway. The series may include recent ad hoc articles written by members of the NEC.
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, launched in April 2020, with five rounds completed at different stages during 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is complemented by the inclusion of research into the ongoing effects of the pandemic in much of Eurofound’s other areas of work.
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.
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.
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).
The report describes trends in social and economic discontent across the EU between 2002 and 2020, highlighting in particular the turbulent times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report explores the evolution of social cohesion and its impact on economic and social discontent. It assesses the relationship between social cohesion and discontent during the pandemic, allowing for a comparison of the situation as it stands in 2023. The focus of the report is on regions where social cohesion is low, where a contrast is drawn with regions where social cohesion is much higher.
This report analyses the working conditions and job quality of different types of self-employed workers. Drawing on data from the European Working Conditions Survey, it looks into policies in Member States aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunities associated with specific types of self-employment.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the chemical sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements. The aim of this Eurofound’s study on representativeness is to identify the relevant national and European social partner organisations in the chemical sector in the EU Member States.
The focus of this report is on the role that human capital plays in determining inequalities across the EU, as well as within Member States. Using Cedefop’s work in this area, the report provides a comparative analysis of national trends in education and lifelong learning, including differences between educational groups in terms of income, living conditions and health.
The report maps trends in income inequality and examines the situation of the middle classes in the EU during 2020, the year most associated with the COVID-19 lockdowns. It charts developments in the size and composition of middle-class households across countries, identifies those that suffered disproportionately in 2020. Taking a longer lens, the report describes the evolution of income inequalities over the last 15 years, comparing the Great Recession (2007–2009) with the COVID-19 pandemic, and outlines the trends both between and within Member States.
This report explores the implications of the right of all EU citizens to live independently. It investigates the barriers faced by people who wish to live independently, and the situation of people at risk of living in institutional settings. It maps the various measures taken by EU Member States to foster independent living and autonomy. The report also includes policy pointers to support future decision-makers and provides a review of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.