The Flexibilization of European Labor Markets: Incidence and Consequences of Atypical Employment

Research question/goal: 

The project’s aim was to give a comprehensive overview of the incidence as well as the consequences of so called "atypical" or "flexible" employment relationships in European labor markets. At the centre of interest were the three quantitatively most important forms of atypical employment: part-time employment, temporary help agency work and temporary employment. These forms of employment had to be examined with respect to the effects they have on the amount and the structure of social inequality. In order to do so it was planned to use data sets which allow not only having a temporal comparison of the share of atypical employment on the whole volume of employment but also examining the effects atypical jobs have on important indicators of social inequality (as for example earnings and wages or the stability of employment careers). Given the project’s comparative perspective it was possible to take into account the specific effects of different institutional as well as structural conditions of labor markets. This allowed opening up a broader view on the relationship between labor market flexibilization and changes in the system of social inequality. The first twelve months of the project were particularly needed for getting an overview of the literature and for data preparation. Due to the early end of the project only a few conclusions could be produced, which regard primarily the German labor market. On the one hand data from the Socio-economic Panel (waves 2001-2005) were used to investigate the effects of temporary employment, part-time employment and temporary help agency work on wages, wage growth, and on the risk of becoming unemployed. The results show negative socio-economic consequences for employees holding fixed-term contracts and for temporary help agency workers. These negative consequences are, as the research results show, also perceived as being negative by most of the employees. However, in some cases there are differences between the subjective estimation of a risk and the actual outcome. For example, temporary help agency workers seem to underestimate the risk of losing their job. On the other hand, by using Mikrozensus data from 1989-2005 the effect of individual characteristics on the probability of holding a fixed-term contract was investigated. The results show, that especially young persons, low-qualified people as well as workers with general qualification level face an increased risk to hold a fixed-term contract instead of a permanent one. A comparison over time yields the results, that age-related fixed-term-risk have changed, meaning that young people are increasingly employed on fixed-term contracts. The results of this research project have been published in a MZES-Working-Paper, but the paper was also submitted to a scientific journal. A first internationally comparative study was started, which is based on data of Mikrozensus and the British Labour Force Surveys. The focus of interest was on the risks of holding a fixed-term contract among university graduates in Germany and Britain. The analysis could show that German university graduates are more likely than British graduates to hold a fixed-term contract. Moreover, the results indicate that in both countries the risks of holding a fixed-term contract varies between fields of study. However, in Germany this variation is more pronounced than in Britain. This and the other results of the analysis reflect important institutional differences between both countries (for example in educational system or in labor market). The conclusions of this study were published by the scientific journal International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Fact sheet

Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg
2006 to 2008
Data Sources: 
European Labour Force Survey, European Community Household P
Geographic Space: 
Western Europe