Employment, Poverty and Globalization
Edited by Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann
Chapter 4: The Different Roles of Low-wage Work in Germany: Regional, Demographical and Temporal Variances in the Poverty Risk of Low-paid Workers
4. The diﬀerent roles of low-wage work in Germany: regional, demographical and temporal variances in the poverty risk of low-paid workers Marco Gießelmann and Henning Lohmann INTRODUCTION There is a long-standing discussion about the relationship between low wages and in-work poverty. In Germany, this relationship is obviously rather weak: empirical studies have shown that Germany, compared with other countries in the European Union (EU), is a country with a high proportion of low-wage workers – in particular when earned incomes are considered on a monthly basis. But although the low-wage sector is large (Eurostat, 2005), the poverty risk among workers used to be comparatively low (Strengmann-Kuhn, 2003). In this chapter, we explain this empirical phenomenon. We show that individual low wages are often pooled with other earned incomes within a household, and consequently that living with other employed persons enables low-paid workers to avoid poverty. Then, by analysing the institutional framework, we show that Germany – and Western Germany in particular – can be regarded as a prime example of a modiﬁed male-breadwinner model (Lewis and Ostner, 1994) and that potential secondary earners are provided with the incentive to work part-time on a low-wage basis. From this perspective, we are able to explain the high proportion of low-wage workers and discuss whether low-wage work decreases rather than increases the household poverty risk (Becker, 2002). However, we should point out that an attempt to treat Germany as one macro unit fails: even though since reuniﬁcation, Eastern Germany shares most elements...
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