Longitudinal Measures of Labour-Market Inequality. What Could They Contribute to Public Discussion? the Case of Germany

Friday, 3 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.1.03 (Tower Two)
René Lehweß-Litzmann, Sociological Research Institute, Goettingen, Germany
While in research the use of longitudinal data for labour-market analyses has become a commonplace in the course of the last two decades, public discussion on this topic is still very much based on one cross-sectional indicator: Just like the GDP still often serves for ‘measuring’ well-being, the unemployment rate is considered to tell (most of) what there is to know about the labour-market. The proposed contribution therefore attempts a reflection on the necessity of a longitudinal approach to labour-market monitoring and analysis: Does an informed public debate on well-being and inequality in the labour-market require more input from longitudinal analyses, or are they just a scientific gadget? Does it depend on the purpose? Where exactly is there a need for longitudinal approaches? Which longitudinal measures deserve more public attention in addition to static measures? What are the methodological and infrastructural preconditions for establishing them?

These questions are pursued here both in a conceptual and an empirical way. Empirically, it will be investigated what some basic longitudinal metrics can add in the current German labour-market context. With an estimated general unemployment rate of 7 percent in 2015, Germany is considered to be in a favourable situation as compared to other European countries and to its own recent labour-market record. Ten years ago, in 2005, Germany had been called the ‘sick man of Europe’, with an unemployment rate as high as 11.7 percent. The current edition of SIAB (Sample of Integrated Labour Market Biographies, provided by the German Federal Employment Agency) data allows tracking individual employment trajectories until 2010, where the macro-level situation had already turned to the (relatively) better (unemployment rate of 7.7). On the basis of this data, it will be looked at how the described macro-recovery reflected in micro-level experiences: What can cumulative measures unveil about what people in the German labour-market have experienced along their individual trajectories, by getting from the one historical moment to the other? What kinds of inequality hide behind the national unemployment rate which is the same for all? What phenomena apart from unemployment, but still related to the same macro-context, are noteworthy? What does the recent German labour-market record look like from the micro-perspective of a selection of longitudinal measures?