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Employment Relationships at Risk – Low Wages, Precarious Contracts and Unemployment Across Working Life

The central aim of this project was to investigate the implications of fixed-term employment for the individuals concerned. We examined a number of key issues for temporary contract workers. In the first part of the project we examined the wage penalty associated with fixed-term contracts, and how this develops over time (wage growth). We examined the role of fixed-term contracts for the transition from education to work as well as variations in the consequences of fixed-term contracts for men and women. We looked at the health implications of temporary contract employment determining whether contract type has a causal impact on physical and/or psychological health. Finally, we widened the focus to compare fixed-term contracts in a number of other European countries.

The project has a number of strengths. Firstly we used high-quality longitudinal data for our analysis. This allowed us to follow individuals over time and analyse subsequent labour market transitions and wage growth. This is crucial, given that temporary contracts are by nature of short duration. Secondly, this data allowed us to apply a number of sophisticated models such as fixed-effects models, quantile regression and propensity score matching to investigate our research questions. Thirdly, we frequently adopted a comparative perspective investigating variations in the consequences of fixed-term contracts by country. We argued that the German example is especially interesting, being an intermediate case between countries with high employment protection and high rates of fixed-term jobs like Spain and France and countries with low employment protection and low fixed-term employment like the UK or the US.

Selected Publications

McGinnity, F., & Mertens, A. (2004). Befristete Verträge und Berufseinstieg. In S. Hillmert & K. U. Mayer (Eds.), Geboren 1964 und 1971: Neuere Untersuchungen zu Ausbildungs- und Berufschancen in Westdeutschland (pp. 115-131). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Mertens, A., & McGinnity, F. (2005). Einkommensverluste durch befristete Beschäftigung? Ein Überblick über den Stand der Debatte in Deutschland. In M. Kronauer & G. Linne (Eds.), Flexicurity: Die Suche nach Sicherheit in der Flexibilität (Forschung aus der Hans-Böckler-Stiftung No. 65) (pp. 169-182). Berlin: edition sigma.

Mertens, A., & McGinnity, F. (2004). Wages and wage growth of fixed-term workers in East and West Germany. Applied Economics Quarterly, 50, 139-163.

Mertens, A., & McGinnity, F. (2005). A "two-tier" labour market for fixed-term jobs? Evaluating evidence from West Germany using quantile regression. Schmollers Jahrbuch, 125, 75-85.

McGinnity, F., Mertens, A., & Gundert, S. (2005). A bad start? Fixed-term contracts and the transition from education to work in West Germany. European Socialogical Review, 21, 359-374.

Project Team

Vanessa Gash
Stefanie Gundert
Frances McGinnity
Antje Mertens
Laura Romeu

Working Papers

Working Paper 1 (200 KB)
Working Paper 2 (137 KB)
Working Paper 3 (157 KB)
Working Paper 4 (176 KB)