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In the aftermath of the German labor market reforms, is there a qualitative/quantitative trade-off?


  • Joachim Möller

    (IAB, Nuremberg and University of Regensburg, Germany)


This paper argues that the German labor market reforms implemented in 2003–2005 were successful, according to the main quantitative indicator of labor market conditions. Long-term unemployment decreased substantially in the years after the reform, and the trend of continuously increasing systemic unemployment was reversed. At the same time, the extreme shock to the GDP incurred by the world recession in 2008/2009 left only minor traces in the German labor market. Employment climbed to an all-time high, and several regions, especially Southern Germany, are close to full employment. One should also stress that youth unemployment in the country is among the lowest in Europe. The evidence from several qualitative indicators of labor market conditions, however, is less clear. Since 2005, these different indicators tell both negative and positive stories. On the positive side, the German ‘job miracle’ could have played a role in this context. Even during the sharpest recession in the post-war period, employment was stable. My interpretation is that this ameliorated the perceived job stability for many workers. On the negative side, the wage growth for many groups of workers is unsatisfactory. Wage inequality has risen substantially. Today, the size of the low-pay sector in Germany is higher than that in almost all other European countries. I argue that the increase in wage dispersion has gone too far. It was not a necessary condition for the improvement of the employment rate but was instead an unintended by-product of the reforms. Therefore, this side effect can be corrected without jeopardizing the indisputable employment rate successes.

Suggested Citation

  • Joachim Möller, 2014. "In the aftermath of the German labor market reforms, is there a qualitative/quantitative trade-off?," European Journal of Economics and Economic Policies: Intervention, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 11(2), pages 205-220, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:elg:ejeepi:v:11:y:2014:i:2:p205-220

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Card & Jörg Heining & Patrick Kline, 2013. "Workplace Heterogeneity and the Rise of West German Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(3), pages 967-1015.
    2. Nathalie Greenan & Ekaterina Kalugina & Emmanuelle Walkowiak, 2012. "Has the Quality of Work Improved in the EU-15 between 1995 and 2005 ?," Working Papers halshs-00856209, HAL.
    3. Jan Behringer & Till van Treeck, 2013. "Income distribution and current account: A sectoral perspective," IMK Working Paper 125-2013, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    4. Christian Dustmann & Johannes Ludsteck & Uta Schönberg, 2009. "Revisiting the German Wage Structure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 843-881.
    5. Green, Francis & McIntosh, Steven, 2001. "The intensification of work in Europe," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 291-308, May.
    6. Blanchard, Olivier J. & Summers, Lawrence H., 1987. "Hysteresis in unemployment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-2), pages 288-295.
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    More about this item


    labor market reforms; unemployment; inequality; quality of jobs;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


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