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Intensive care unit in Berlin: Continued clear East-West divide in collective bargaining coverage

Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa

Only 49 percent of employees in Germany were employed in a company covered by collective bargaining agreements last year. This is according to current data from the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden.

According to the study, the highest collective bargaining coverage of 100 percent is in public administration. Energy suppliers (85 percent), educational institutions (82 percent) and financial and insurance service providers (75 percent) also usually have collective agreements.

No comparison to figures from previous years

The fewest companies covered by collective bargaining agreements are in the areas of agriculture and forestry, fishing (eleven percent), hospitality (20 percent), arts, entertainment and recreation (21 percent) and real estate and housing (22 percent).

The lack of collective bargaining could soon become a problem for companies that want to do business with the public sector. Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) plans to award federal public contracts with a value of 10,000 euros or more only to companies that pay collective bargaining agreements.

The plans for a corresponding law are intended to increase the companies' compliance with collective bargaining agreements. Contractors as well as their subcontractors or contracted lenders would have to document that they kept their promise of collective bargaining agreement, according to the draft.

So far, the Federal Statistical Office has only collected data on collective bargaining coverage every four years. Starting this year, the indicator will now be determined annually on the basis of the results of the earnings survey, the statisticians explained. Due to the methodological change, this year's data are therefore not directly comparable with the last data from 2018.

In one important point, however, little has changed, despite different surveys: there is still a clear east-west divide. The federal states with the lowest collective bargaining coverage are Berlin and Saxony with 43 percent each and Thuringia with 45 percent. The only outlier is Saxony-Anhalt with 51 percent. Bremen (56 percent) and Saarland (53 percent) have the highest collective bargaining coverage.