Torn Between East and West? Work and Employment in Eastern Germany Between Western Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
254 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Stefan Kirchner, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Current patterns of work and employment in Eastern Germany evolved against the background of tremendous institutional and socio-economic shifts. The transition from a state socialist economy to a market economy in a reunified Germany resembles a huge institutional experiment. This transition is part of an even larger project of the “fall of the iron curtain” that also transformed neighboring Eastern European countries. In this transition process Eastern Germany is geographically, historically and economically placed between Western Germany and its Eastern European neighbors Poland and the Czech Republic. This “in-between” status of Eastern Germany poses a theoretical and empirical challenge for institutional research. The current literature is divided over work and employment in Eastern Germany. Some scholars view Eastern Germany as an integrated part of the unified Germany and its general socio-economic model. In contrast, others see Eastern Germany as a prime example for a regional diversity within national institutional frameworks. If indeed Eastern Germany does not follow the Western German patterns, does it conform to its Eastern European neighbors or does it evolve along an alternative logic altogether?

The article applies the concept of national employment systems to Eastern Germany to identify key properties and its underlying logic. The logic of an employment systems describes the elements shaping the organization of work and employment. Building on the European working conditions survey (EWCS) the article empirically compares employees in Eastern Germany with Western Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic focusing on differences in the management systems and employment conditions. The results show that patterns in Eastern Germany resemble a survival specialist logic. This pattern significantly diverges from the Western German pattern and it also differs from the transitional logic found in Poland and the Czech Republic. The analysis reveals that the investigated employment systems follow specific logics that reflect a historical compromise and that the Eastern German employment system constitutes a regional variant within the German institutional framework.