Fragmented Labour Markets in Affluent Societies: Examples From Germany and the Netherlands

Sonja Bekker, Janine Leschke

Research output: Working paperResearchpeer-review


The employment and social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been more severe on some groups of workers than others. In particular, low-wage workers and workers in forms of employment that differ from full-time wage and salary work with a permanent contract seem to have been especially exposed to job and income losses. The concept of ‘fragmented labour markets’ highlights the large and growing diversity in employment relationships. We define fragmented labour markets as labour markets characterised by an accumulation of insecurities. Fragmentation is evident where workers combine non-standard employment with low wages or where they combine several forms of non-standard employment − situations that are dominant in particular occupational groups. Applying this concept in two affluent countries – Germany and the Netherlands – highlights vulnerability in some occupations, particularly among women, but at times also among men. For instance, almost 70% of female personal care employees in Germany are employed part time and 18% of these combine part-time employment with a fixed-term employment contract. In the Netherlands, 43% of women in the occupational group of cleaners and helpers and service employees are marginally employed and 27% of these combine marginal part-time employment with fixed-term employment. Both occupations, and particularly cleaning, are at the same time characterised by low wages. These groups would have been ‘invisible’ if only data on the average economy had been used. This demonstrates the importance of relating the impact of the crisis on jobs, income and social security to the degree of job stability and decent earnings workers had prior to the crisis. The concept of ‘fragmented labour markets’ is therefore very suitable for detecting vulnerabilities that have been built into labour markets over the past decades.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherEuropean Social Observatory (OSE)
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2021
SeriesOSE Paper Series: Opinion Paper

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