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The Response of Wages and Actual Hours Worked to the Reduction of Standard Hours in Germany

  • Jennifer Hunt

A transformation of what had become a universal 40-hour standard working week in Germany began in 1985 with reductions negotiated in the metal-working and printing sectors. These reductions have continued through 1995, and were followed by reductions in other sectors. The union campaign aimed to increase employment through ‘work-sharing’, and is being emulated in the United States with the launch of a reduced hours campaign by the AFL-CIO. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, I find that increased overtime or reduced short time was little used to offset the reduction in standard hours: a one-hour reduction in standard hours appears to have translated into a reduction in actual hours worked of between 0.85 and 1 hour for workers in manufacturing. One might expect this to have resulted in a loss of earnings for workers in affected industries. I substantiate the union’s claim of ‘full wage compensation’, however: reductions in standard hours were accompanied by a relative rise in the hourly straight-time wage of 2–3% for each hour fall in standard hours; enough to keep monthly earnings the same as in unaffected industries.

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Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 138.

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Length: 37 S+Tab. p.
Date of creation: 1996
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp138
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  1. Calmfors, Lars, 1985. "Work sharing, employment and wages," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 293-309.
  2. Nymoen, Ragnar, 1989. " Wages and the Length of the Working Day. An Empirical Test Based on Norwegian Quarterly Manufacturing Data," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 91(3), pages 599-612.
  3. Lehment, Harmen, 1991. "Lohnzurückhaltung, Arbeitszeitverkürzung und Beschäftigung : eine empirische Untersuchung für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1973 - 1990," Open Access Publications from Kiel Institute for the World Economy 1505, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
  4. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1993. "Labor Demand and the Source of Adjustment Costs," NBER Working Papers 4394, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Booth, Alison & Schiantarelli, Fabio, 1987. "The Employment Effects of a Shorter Working Week," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 54(214), pages 237-48, May.
  6. Hart, R A & Sharot, T, 1978. "The Short-run Demand for Workers and Hours: A Recursive Model," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(2), pages 299-309, June.
  7. Franz, Wolfgang & Konig, Heinz, 1986. "The Nature and Causes of Unemployment in the Federal Republic of Germany since the 1970s: An Empirical Investigation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 53(210(S)), pages S219-44, Supplemen.
  8. Pencavel, John & Holmlund, Bertil, 1988. "The Determination of Wages, Employment, and Work Hours in an Economy with Centralised Wage-Setting: Sweden, 1950-83," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(393), pages 1105-26, December.
  9. Booth, Alison & Ravallion, Martin, 1993. "Employment and Length of the Working Week in a Unionized Economy in which Hours of Work Influence Productivity," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 69(207), pages 428-36, December.
  10. Brunello, Giorgio, 1989. "The Employment Effects of Shorter Working Hours: An Application to Japanese Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 56(224), pages 473-86, November.
  11. Trejo, Stephen J, 1991. "The Effects of Overtime Pay Regulation on Worker Compensation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 719-40, September.
  12. Earle, John S & Pencavel, John, 1990. "Hours of Work and Trade Unionism," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S150-74, January.
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