Discussion Papers

Alex Kalevi Dieke, Martin Zauner

Arbeitsbedingungen im Briefmarkt

Nr. 295 / Mai 2007


Since the first steps of liberalization in 1998, several operators have entered the German market for letter delivery to compete with Deutsche Post AG. Recently, a controversial political debate has arisen about working conditions at the new entrants.

The objective of this study is to empirically assess and evaluate current working conditions in the German letters market. The study analyses three essential working conditions: wages, working hours, and entitlement to holidays. It investigates working conditions at Deutsche Post AG, its subcontractors, and its competitors. The study results are based on a survey of the 100 most important operators by revenue in the German letters market (including Deutsche Post AG). Working conditions in the letters market are compared to those in other, more competitive, industries.

Key conclusions:

  • For Deutsche Post AG, its subcontractors and its competitors, the average wage level in the letters market exceeds the minimum wage proposed by leading trade unions in Germany.

  •  To a large extent, the delivery sector is a low wage sector. Both Deutsche Post AG and its competitors pay wages to beginners that are lower than—or in the range—the critical value for low wages (according the OECD’s definition).

  • The average wage level paid by Deutsche Post AG is high compared to wages paid by its subcontractors and its competitors.

  • In comparison to regional wage differences in other industries, the wage differences in the letters market do not seem to be unusual. The uniform nationwide wages paid by Deutsche Post AG are a notable exception, and are unusual in comparison to other firms in the letters market and also in comparison to other industries.

  •  Following corporatisation, Deutsche Post AG introduced significant measures to reduce its labour costs and gain flexibility. There was massive outsourcing related to transportation and post offices, equivalent to 20,000 to 25,000 full time jobs in total. Subcontractors pay significantly lower wages than Deutsche Post AG.

  •  Some competitors pay piecework wages in addition to—or instead of—hourly wages in order to keep their labour costs flexible and be able to adapt to unsteady demand.

  • Weekly working hours for full time staff in the letters market are similar to those in other industries. Holiday entitlement for employees of competitors to Deutsche Post exceeds the minimum required by German labour legislation, but is lower than holiday entitlement at Deutsche Post and in other industries—particularly those where collective labour agreements apply.

[only a german version available]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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