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Transformation of the East German Labor Market

The research project, "East German Life Courses after Unification", was started in 1995 and is a follow-up study of the former project "Life Courses and Historical Change in the German Democratic Republic" (1991-95). Whereas the former study focused on the reconstruction of GDR society, the main purpose of the new study was to investigate the East German transformation process. We analyzed the life courses of different birth cohorts as "mirrors" of institutional change, whilst bearing in mind the inner dynamics of individual trajectories. Research targets were:

  • the social history of the East German transformation process,
  • the interplay between institutional and structural change and individual life courses in the East German transformation processes,
  • the particularity of the East German transformation process.

The East German transformation is conceptualized as a process shaped simultaneously by the legacy of GDR experiences as the point of departure, by the incorporation into West Germany as the point of destination, and by the fact that where there is system transformation, there is also more "openness" to social change than would be the case in a relatively closed status quo situation.

The transition from a command to a market society in East Germany led to changes in job structure and occupation structure, to changes in the resources and rewards granted certain jobs, and to modified allocation criteria according to which persons are matched to jobs. One of the primary mechanisms by which such structural adjustments can be accomplished is the mobility of individuals between jobs, industries, employment statuses, and occupations. This mobility is partly enforced, partly stimulated by the sudden loss of work places and changing demands for occupational skills. In the first stage of the project, we explored the formation of East German employment histories by institutions and organizations, as well as the and endogeneous causalities of individual careers with a special emphasis on time-dependencies. A doctoral thesis by Sylvia Zühlke analyzed the individual processing of macro-social occupational change, by looking at patterns of occupational reorientation and training. Anne Goedicke´s doctoral thesis examined the role of firm restructuring and personnel strategies for employment opportunities of East German employees and job-seekers, thus linking individual labor market risks to shifts in employers´demand for labor. A habilitation thesis by Martin Diewald conceptualized the interplay between individual characteristics and structural opportunities from a developmental perspective. He also explored mobility patterns in the East German labor market after 1989 from a comparative perspective together with those in West Germany and Poland. Britta Matthes' doctoral thesis analyzed the labor market entry of young East Germans. Anke Höhne's dissertation project examined the interplay of labor market opportunities and family structures.

The project continued to systematically examine labor market opportunities under conditions of rapid social change, strengthening both a pan-German and international comparative perspective. It further investigated the nexus between institutions and organizations shaping employment trajectories (in particular between firms and occupations, and between households and labor markets). Exploiting the unique potential of our data on the GDR, we also traced employment careers through the different societal settings to deepen our understanding of long-term causes and consequences of the system change in order.

The main empirical basis of the project was a data set that combines a panel survey with an event history design. It contains information on 2,323 East German men and women (born between 1929-31, 1939-41, 1951-53, 1959-61), who were interviewed in 1991/92 about their entire life histories. In 1996/97, we succeeded in re-interviewing 1,394 participants of the original sample, by employing a combined CATI and CAPI strategy. These interviews comprise the complete employment and family histories since December 1989. Besides the four birth cohorts of the initial sample, a new birth cohort was added - men and women who were born in 1971 were asked about their entire life (610 cases). Compared to earlier life course studies, more detailed information about organizational contexts of occupational careers within firms, and about subjective dimensions of developmental regulation (such as control beliefs, perceived primary and secondary control, and self-esteem) were gathered in the interviews in 1996/97. Finally, for methodological reasons, a nonresponse survey was carried out.

Major Publication from Preceding Years

Huinink, J., Mayer, K. U., Diewald, M., Solga, H., Sørensen, A., & Trappe, H. (Eds.). (1995). Kollektiv und Eigensinn. Lebensverläufe in der DDR und danach. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. 414 p.

Diewald, M., & Mayer, K. U. (Eds.). (1996). Zwischenbilanz der Wiedervereinigung. Strukturwandel und Mobilität im Transformationsprozeß. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Selected Recent Publications

Diewald, M. (2000). Continuities and Breaks in Occupational Careers and Subjective Control: The Case of the East German Transformation. In J. Bynner & R. Silbereisen (Eds.), Adversity and Challenge in Life in the New Germany and in England (pp. 239-267). London: MacMillan.

Diewald, M. (2000). Entwertungen, Umwertungen, Aufwertungen. Ostdeutsche Erwerbsverläufe zwischen Kontinuität und Wandel. Habilitation, Freie Universität Berlin.

Diewald, M., & Goedicke, A. (2000). Im Osten nichts Neues? Berufliche Mobilitätsprozesse nach der Wende innerhalb und zwischen Betrieben. In Hanns-Georg Brose (Ed.), Reorganisation der Arbeitsgesellschaft (pp. 85-116). Campus Verlag.

Diewald, M., Goedicke, A., & Solga, H. (2000). Arbeitsmarktkompetenzen in Ostdeutschland - nicht vorhanden oder nicht gefragt?  Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 40, 39-46.

Goedicke, A. (2000). Beschäftigungsfolgen betrieblichen Wandels. Eine Studie zu Betriebswechseln und Arbeitslosigkeit in Ostdeutschland. Dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin.

Matthes, B., & Wehner, S. (2002). Ein Vergleich ausgewählter Randverteilungen der Lebensverlaufsstudie Ost (Geburtskohorte 1971) mit den Erhebungen des Mikrozensus. Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung (Arbeitsbericht Nr. 1 aus dem Projekt Ostdeutsche Lebensverläufe im Transformationsprozess).

Mayer, K. U., Diewald, M., & Solga, H. (1999). Transitions to post-communism in East Germany: Worklife mobility of women and men between 1989 and 1993. Acta Sociologica, 42, 35-53.

Solga, H., & Diewald, M. (2001). The East German Labour Market after German Unification: A Study of Structural Change and Occupational Matching. Work, Employment & Society, 15, 95-126.

Solga, H., Diewald, M., & Goedicke, A. (2000). Arbeitsmarktmobilität und die Umstrukturierung des ostdeutschen Beschäftigungssystems. MittAB, 2, 242-260.

Solga, H., & Konietzka, D. (1999). Occupational Matching and Social Stratification: Theoretical Insights and Empirical Observations Taken from a German-German Comparison. European Sociological Review 15 (1), 25-47.

Zühlke, S., & Goedicke, A. (2000). Mobilität oder Immobilität? Zur Bedeutung interner Arbeitsmärkte in beiden deutschen Staaten vor 1989. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 52 (1).

Zühlke, S. (2000). Beschäftigungschancen durch berufliche Mobilität? Arbeitslosigkeit, Weiterbildung und Berufswechsel in Ostdeutschland. Berlin: sigma.

Project Team

Anne Goedicke
Anke Höhne
Britta Matthes
Karl Ulrich Mayer
Heike Trappe

Dissertation und Postdoctoral Projects

Working Lives in Family Contexts (Dissertation, Anke Höhne)

Bridges and Traps: Labor Market Entry of Young East Germans under System Transformation (Dissertation, Britta Matthes)

Organizational Contexts of Occupational Careers in East Germany after 1989 (Dissertation)

Changes of the Occupation Structure and Work Life Histories in East German (Dissertation)

The Integration of the West and East Berlin Police Force (Postdoctoral)