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‘Grey zones’ within dependent employment: formal and informal forms of on-call work in Germany


  • Karen Jaehrling

    (27170University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

  • Thorsten Kalina

    (27170University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany)


This article aims to take stock of the various manifestations of on-call work in Germany. It is shown that formal on-call work is, by international standards, relatively strictly regulated in Germany, not least as the result of a 2019 reform of the law. Similar to other countries, however, other informal variants are used that lie outside the scope of the re-regulation or ‘normalisation’ of formal on-call work. Differentiated analyses based on survey data show that both formal and informal variants of on-call work are associated with disproportionately high levels of short part-time work, low pay and consequently with considerable risks of poverty. As a consequence, the ongoing debate on the erosion of the status of employee should not be too narrowly restricted to self-employed workers in the gig economy (Deliveroo, Uber) but should be extended to include the ‘grey zones’ in the area of dependent employment. Cet article vise à faire le point sur les différentes manifestations du travail à la demande en Allemagne. Il montre que le travail à la demande formel est, selon les normes internationales, réglementé assez strictement en Allemagne, grâce notamment à la réforme de la loi en 2019. Toutefois, comme dans d’autres pays, d’autres variantes informelles sont présentes et échappent au champ d’application de la re-réglementation ou de la “normalisation†du travail à la demande formel. Des analyses différenciées, basées sur des données d’enquête, montrent que les variantes formelles et informelles du travail à la demande sont associées à des niveaux proportionnellement trop importants de travail à temps partiel de courte durée, de faibles rémunérations et, par conséquent, à des risques considérables de pauvreté. Dès lors, le débat en cours sur l’érosion du statut de salarié ne devrait pas être strictement limité aux travailleurs indépendants de la gig economy - ou économie des petits boulots (Deliveroo, Uber), mais devrait être étendu aux “zones grises†présentes dans le domaine de l’emploi dépendant. Der vorliegende Artikel zielt auf eine Bestandsaufnahme der verschiedenen Erscheinungsformen von Abrufarbeit in Deutschland und zeigt, dass die formale Variante von Abrufarbeit hier im internationalen Vergleich relativ strikt reguliert ist, nicht zuletzt durch eine Gesetzesreform, die 2019 in Kraft trat. Ähnlich wie in anderen Ländern kommen jedoch andere informelle Varianten zum Einsatz, die außerhalb des Geltungsbereichs der Re-Regulierung oder ‘‘Normalisierung’’ der formellen Abrufarbeit liegen. Differenzierte Analysen auf der Grundlage von Umfragedaten zeigen, dass sowohl formelle als auch informelle Varianten von Abrufarbeit mit einem unverhältnismäßig hohen Anteil an kurzer Teilzeit, Niedriglöhnen und damit einem hohen Armutsrisiko assoziiert sind. Die gegenwärtige Debatte über die Erosion des Arbeitnehmerstatus sollte sich deshalb nicht zu eng auf die Solo-Selbständigen in der Gig-Ökonomie beschränken (Deliveroo, Uber), sondern auch die ‘‘Grauzonen’’ im Bereich der abhängigen Beschäftigung in den Blick nehmen.

Suggested Citation

  • Karen Jaehrling & Thorsten Kalina, 2020. "‘Grey zones’ within dependent employment: formal and informal forms of on-call work in Germany," Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research, , vol. 26(4), pages 447-463, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:treure:v:26:y:2020:i:4:p:447-463
    DOI: 10.1177/1024258920937960

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    References listed on IDEAS

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