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Germany – Temps earn half as much as permanent staff, study claims

27 March 2012

A new study claims that temporary workers in Germany often earn only half as much as permanent employees. However, it also found that temporary workers do not displace permanent workers. The Bertelsmann Foundation, which commissioned the research, now suggests that temporary workers should be paid the same salaries as permanent workers after three months of working.

The study says that around 491,999 of the 910,000 temps in the country would benefit from this and estimates that the costs would amount to around €410 million.

In Germany, the temporary staffing industry has introduced a minimum wage for agency workers in 2011 and Aart De Geus of the Bertelsmann Foundation said that this “was the first step in the right direction to correct discrepancies in pay.” But full equal pay should be granted to temps after an initial training period, the study argues.

Only yesterday, the German Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen criticised the “malpractices in the German staffing industry”. She said it was “unacceptable that employees do the same work in the long term and that there are unequal salaries for this.” But public opinion is divided on this and the opposition party, Die Linke, wants to abolish the temporary staffing industry altogether.

Meanwhile the association of temporary employment agencies, iGZ, said that the autonomy of the current wage bargaining should be respected while the negotiations between unions and employers should not be “torpedoed by political manoeuvre games.”

According to the RWI, an institute for economic research which carried out the research on behalf of the Bertelsmann Foundation, temporary workers “bear the costs of flexibility”. In Western Germany, a temporary who has had vocational training earns around 47% less than a permanent employee with the same qualifications while in Eastern Germany, they get paid 36% less. This can be explained by the general lower salaries of temporary workers, the study indicates.

The study also found that the highest proportion of temporary workers are men and are employed in Western Germany’s industrial sector. The discrepancies in pay there are particularly high as assembly workers in the metal industry earn around 47% less than permanent employees – instead of €2,990, they get around €1,540 (figures relate to gross income). The study also shows that differences in pay are less severe for temporaries working in low skill jobs.

But the Cologne Institute for Economic Research today said that this discrepancy in pay could be “justified” as temporary workers do not take on as much responsibility as permanent employees due to their shorter stay at companies.

To read the full study in German language, click here.

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