IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

German employers and the origins of unemployment insurance. Skills interest or strategic accommodation?


  • Paster, Thomas


This paper analyzes the attitudes of industrial employers during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic towards the adoption of public unemployment insurance. While employers initially opposed unemployment insurance, they eventually endorsed it. What explains this shift in attitude? The paper tests two alternative theses: the conventional power resource thesis and the newer skills interest thesis. While the power resource thesis explains social protection as the result of distributive conflicts between employers and labor, the skills interest thesis sees it as an outcome of joint interests in skills investment by capital and labor. The study concludes that the power resource thesis has the greater explanatory power. Employers' support of unemployment insurance was an attempt to defeat other policy options on the agenda rather than an effort to promote skills investment. An unfavorable policy legacy and a sustained change in political majorities are the main factors that explain the change in positions. Fear of rising labor costs and the erosion of work incentives shaped employers' preferences rather than an interest in protecting skills investments. On a more general level, the results show the significant impact of political constraints on the positions actors take and the importance of short-term considerations in processes of preference formation.

Suggested Citation

  • Paster, Thomas, 2011. "German employers and the origins of unemployment insurance. Skills interest or strategic accommodation?," MPIfG Discussion Paper 11/5, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:115

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nathalie Girouard & Christophe André, 2005. "Measuring Cyclically-adjusted Budget Balances for OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 434, OECD Publishing.
    2. Bruno Amable & Donatella Gatti & Jan Schumacher, 2006. "Welfare-State Retrenchment: The Partisan Effect Revisited," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(3), pages 426-444, Autumn.
    3. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti & Roberto Perotti & Massimo Rostagno, 2002. "Electoral Systems and Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(2), pages 609-657.
    4. Amable, Bruno, 2003. "The Diversity of Modern Capitalism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199261147.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:115. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.