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Contingent Employment in Europe and the United States

Edited by Ola Bergström and Donald Storrie

Contingent Employment in Europe and the United States examines the developments in labour markets in advanced economies in the 21st century, as regards contingent employment. This is defined as employment relationships that can be terminated with minimal costs within a predetermined period of time. This includes fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work and self-employment. Contingent employment has been the subject of much legislative activity in the last decade, at both the national and European level. Temporary agency work, in particular, has recently been extensively deregulated in most European countries and currently we await the fate of a proposed EU directive on agency work. The book is therefore highly topical.
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Chapter 6: Contingent employment in Germany

Thomas Peuntner


Thomas Peuntner INTRODUCTION In Germany, as with several other countries in Europe, most of the 1990s were a period of low economic growth, increasing unemployment and a perception of crisis. The growing international interdependence of capital, the breaking down of national borders, the rapid speed of technical progress and the resulting increase in national and international competitive pressure have posed major new challenges to the German economy (Eichenberg and Wiskemann, 1997, p.142). This crisis is often described as being manifested by the transition from a stable industrial society to a constantly changing information society, characterized by the increasing use and importance of information and communication technology (see, for example, Oechsler, 2000b, pp.28f). These structural changes are accompanied by discontinuity and uncertainty. In the wake of the growing international competition, the discontinuity and the ensuing uncertainty, companies initially responded by reducing their workforce. This downsizing, together with both a concentration process within the German economy and an increase in the number of insolvencies, led to an appreciable increase in unemployment. A further response to the new circumstances facing companies was the flexibilization of the workforce. Companies need to adjust to the ever more rapid changes in their environment by developing a more flexible work organization (ibid., pp.29f). This need for flexibility affects all activities in the company, such as production, the supply chain and human resources. As growth was no longer certain, companies gave up the practice of usually recruiting employees on open-ended contracts, but started to increase the use...

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