The German Case: Better Pay through Collective Agreements

By Reinhard Bispinck, Heiner Dribbusch, Fikret Öz, Hermann Schmid, managers of 

In 2004 the Institute of Social and Economic Research (WSI) within the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung became partner of the international WageIndicator-Network. Since autumn 2004 it has been operating, the website of the Lohnspiegel-Project. The two most important features of the website are the online survey on wages and working conditions and the Salary Check. The Salary Check is based entirely  on responses from users who participate in our research by filling out the questionnaire. Our target group is the entire German labour force, regardless of job category or status. Major partners of Lohnspiegel are the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) and its affiliated unions. Lohnspiegel project and its website are a non-profit operation and all web services are provided free of charge.

Lohnspiegel runs two specialized sister-sites: one addressing female employees in particular and called Frauen-Lohnspiegel:


and one addressing young academics called Absolventen-Lohnspiegel:


A Success Story

Lohnspiegel was an immediate success. Supported by favorable media coverage the project quickly managed to expand the Salary Check which until today remains its core service. We currently offer detailed data for some 385 occupations.


Since the start of the project in 2004 about 260,000 visitors of the Lohnspiegel-websites took part in our continuous online-survey. In 2014 our website attracted a total of 1.6 million visitors, i.e. on average 4,700 visitors a day.


Based on data collected though the questionnaires WSI regularly publishes in-depth reports on wages and working conditions in specific occupations such as secretaries, sales staff etc. or focus reports on occupational groups such as engineers or technicians.

In addition special reports were issued covering topics such as the gender pay gap, the consequences of the crisis on employment or pay differentials between workplaces covered by collective bargaining and those not covered. With regard to the gender pay gap a 2014 study based on Lohnspiegel-data collected from 2009 to 2013 found that women earned on average about 20% less than men. The older the women the larger the gender pay gap is. Whereas women between 25 and 30 years of age earn on average 13% less than men, the gender pay gap for women between 61 and 65 years of age is 28%.

Better Pay through Collective Agreements

Our findings confirm that in Germany employees are better off when working in an establishment which is covered by a collective agreement. Based on a comparatively broad sample of 72,000 returns between 2010 and the beginning of 2015 we found that employees covered by a collective agreement earned on average € 3,476 or 23% more than those working in establishments without bargaining coverage, who received on average only € 2,818.


Studies based on Lohnspiegel-data also consistently show that employees covered by collective bargaining are more likely to receive annual payments such as holiday or Christmas bonuses.


By 2014, as the Lohnspiegel completed its first decade, it has gained a reputation of one of the main sources of information on effective pay. Based on such solid ground it strives to improve its services. One particular aim is to further develop the possibilities to compare wages across countries. 


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