labour market

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The labor market is a market where the demand for labor meets the supply of labor.


The term assumes a group of people who cannot secure their livelihood with their own means of production ( land and capital ) and therefore have to work for others on their means of production (see wage labor in Marxist theory ). A class of such people - the so-called industrial proletariat - emerged in modern European times in the course of the population explosion during the industrial revolution . The resulting problem of unemployment ( lack of income and poverty due to the lack of own means of production and the lack of a person who wants to let the property-free and thus unemployed person work for them) formed one of the most important aspects of the " social question " ( pauperism ) and represents one of the most important Structural features of the European ("western") modern times.

While, according to the neoclassical perspective, the labor market functions like a goods market , it differs from the goods market in a characteristic way from an institutionalist and economic perspective. For Robert M. Solow , "work as a commodity is something special [...] and therefore also the job market". The Keynesian criticism of the neoclassical also sees it this way (see labor market policy ).


On the labor market, workers are offered and in demand for a specific working time and specific qualifications . Workers who can offer their labor personally free, sell (more correctly rent) to pay their labor for the performance of productive activities to employers under whose transfer rights to goods produced or services provide, in combination with (usually) made by employers available Raw materials and work equipment . The employer has to forego part of his profits through (additional) personnel costs, the employee has to overcome the fear of work suffering.

The labor market is not a market for work performance ; Work results are the subject of work contracts . Like doctors, workers are paid for their “efforts”, not for their success . The employment contract establishes an employment relationship and is a sui generis contract .

Special features of the labor market

The peculiarity of the "commodity labor" is that it is inextricably linked to people as the carriers of this commodity. In this respect, a disposition over these goods is always a disposition over their wearer, whose human dignity must be observed. The “ius utendi et abutendi” characteristic of things , the right to use a thing but also to abuse it, is only applicable to animals and people to a very limited extent. In particular, employees have a right to free time , which the employer only has a limited say in how this is organized, and to freedom of movement .

The demand for labor can be calculated in connection with the marginal product of labor ( 1st derivation of the production function ) (see here ). The market price for the labor of a given worker can be below the subsistence level. In this case, a state that sees itself as a welfare state has an obligation to prevent the person concerned from earning an income (including transfer payments ) below their subsistence level ( minimum wage ).

The union of workers in trade unions and labor law as a protective right for the workers are to be understood as the consequences of an assumed “power asymmetry” ( Claus Offe ) on the labor markets and the character of the employment relationship as a “domination” ( Max Weber ). This theory is based on the premise that labor markets are usually buyers' markets ; h. that a high number am confronted to those willing to work with a limited number of jobs, which no market regulations such as wage payments or a minimum wage would inevitably lead to low labor charges.

Forms of the labor market

A distinction is made between that

  • first labor market , which brings together the economically justified demand for workers (job offers) from companies ( employers ) with a demand for suitable freelance workers ( employees ), and the
  • second (state-subsidized) labor market , which creates additional incentives for employers through labor market policy measures to offer jobs in order to bring about a market balance between supply and demand.
Employed persons and employment structure in Germany 1997

The labor market developed in the course of the advancing division of labor .

Important indicators of the labor market are the employment rate and the unemployment rate . It is often presented separately by region or by economic sector .

The labor market can be structured differently for analysis purposes:

The national economic statistics of the Federal Republic differentiate between so-called

  • Employed . This also includes the self-employed (in Germany in 2001 3,632 million of a total of 36,816 million employed) and
  • Persons with an employment contract ( employees ) and at least 401 euros gross monthly income. The Federal Statistical Office currently has almost 27 million jobs in Germany .

Theoretical foundations

Supply and demand curve in the classic labor market model

In the standard model of neoclassical theory , the labor market can be characterized as in a goods market by rising supply curves and falling demand curves: the higher the wage, the higher the labor supply and the lower the labor demand. A representative actor is assumed here, which enables the transfer of individual economic observations to the macroeconomic analysis in a very simple way. The assumption of complete market transparency on which the model is based and the assumption that the production factor labor is homogeneous limit its applicability from the perspective of modern labor market theories.

The classic apprenticeship assumes wages as flexible and thus explains a market clearance . Unemployment does not exist from this perspective. In reality, however, wages are not flexible because they are usually set for a certain period of time. In fact, they are mostly rigid at the bottom.

Further labor market theories :

To internal labor markets:

Employees as service providers

In the German language it is customary to name the person who gives (performs) the work the employee , while the person who takes the work ( receives the work) is called the employer .

The services that are traded on the labor market differ from other services (e.g. a haircut at the hairdresser's) mainly in these points:

Current developments on the job market

Employed and unemployed

In Germany

Since 2005, three employment relationships have been distinguished on the labor market:

  • Mini job (gross earnings up to 450 euros / month)
  • Low-wage job (gross earnings from 450.01 to 800.00 euros / month)
  • regular employment (gross earnings from 800 euros / month).

For this purpose, social security contributions and taxes are collected accordingly . The new regulation is based on the Hartz concept and is intended to increase the number of employment relationships.

Labor market research

Labor market and occupational research deals with the theoretical and empirical investigation of the labor market, occupational group and sector development, etc. in economic and social contexts. For this discipline, the Institute for Employment Research was founded in 1968 at what was then the Federal Employment Agency . Here the research field is examined in an interdisciplinary manner by sociologists , economists and econometricians .

The research differentiates between countries with a liberal (e.g. USA), conservative (e.g. Federal Republic of Germany) and social democratic (e.g. Sweden) welfare state model and their specific effects on the labor market. If one analyzes these models e.g. B. on the basis of their effects on the gender balance in the labor market, the following picture emerges: In the liberal model, a generally positive development of gender equality on the labor market takes place largely at the expense of low-income women. In the conservative model, v. a. high vertical segregation - d. H. low opportunities for advancement of women - to be observed. In return, the social democratic model produces strong horizontal segregation, i.e. a division of the labor market into specific female and male occupations.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Labor market  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert M. Solow: The Labor Market as a Social Institution . Blackwell, Cambridge 1990, p. 3. Quoted here from Richard Swedberg : Fundamentals of Economic Sociology . VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2009, p. 178
  2. ^ Gerhard Brinkmann: Economics of work . Volume 1: Basics . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1981, p. 226.
  3. ^ Günter Meckenstock: Business ethics . Walter de Gruyter. Berlin / New York 1997, p. 321
  4. Claus Offe: "Working Society". Structural problems and future prospects . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1984, p. 50.
  5. ^ Max Weber: Economy and Society . Study edition, Kiepenheuer and Witsch, Cologne / Berlin 1964, p. 158.
  6. Cf. Thomas Wagner, Elke Jahn: Neue Arbeitsmarkttheorien . 2nd Edition. Lucius and Lucius / UTB, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-8252-8258-9 . , P. 41.
  7. Cf. Werner Stuhlmeier, Gregor Blauermel: Labor market theories . An overview . 2nd Edition. Physica, Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 3-7908-1057-6 . , P. 61.
  8. Cf. Peter Bofinger: Grundzüge der Volkswirtschaftslehre . Pearson Studium, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-8273-7076-0 . , P. 152 ff.
  9. Werner Stuhlmeier / Gregor Blauermel: Labor market theories . Physica-Verlag, 1997, ISBN 3-7908-1057-6 .