Academic journal article German Policy Studies

The Third Sector and Labour Market Policy in Germany

Academic journal article German Policy Studies

The Third Sector and Labour Market Policy in Germany

Article excerpt

Abstract

For a long time, the general public and the policy experts alike have neglected Germany's third or nonprofit sector. However, the recent years have given abundant evidence of the fact that the sector constitutes a major force in the country's economy. Particularly the results of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project show a sector that is contributing significantly to the German labour market, leaving behind the for profit as well as the public sector in terms of job creation. This prompts the question whether the German nonprofit sector might offer new ways to cope with unemployment as one of the most urgent problems of Germany's society.

Introduction

Modern societies are based primarily on employment (EspingAndersen 1990). Therefore participation in the labour market is fundamental for social integration, while unemployment represents a main cause of social exclusion and societal deprivation. Throughout the past two decades, Continental Europe has been plagued by mass unemployment (Schmidt 1999; Fiedler 1999; Neugart 2000). Searching for new avenues of approach to the dramatic economic and societal problems connected with unemployment, policy experts have started to take a closer look at the nonprofit or third sector (Rifkin 1995; Giarini/Liedke 1998; Beck 1997; Strasser 1999). However, they come to very different evaluations with respect to the sector's labour market potential. Whereas post-modernist sociologists perceive the sector as a very dynamic force within the labour market (Beck 1997; Rifkin 1995), others come to a more sceptical assessment of the sector's importance for labour market issues (Bauer 1998; Bode 1999; Evers 1998).

Due to a lack of reliable data, it has until now been difficult to decide whether the third or nonprofit sector has the potential to develop into a job generator of gainful employment for Germany. By the same token scholarly discourse on the "future of labour", discussing the relevance of the sector as an channel for social integration (Beck 1997), is also lacking empirical foundation. In other words: There is very little knowledge about the nonprofit sector as a terrain for gainful employment, because labour market research has almost systematically neglected the topic of work in nonprofit organisations. Accordingly the potential of the sector to serve as a "transitional labour market" (Schmidt 1997, 1998, 1999a, b) has not yet been discussed. Transitional labour markets is providing training and education facilities for those who are temporarily unemployed as well as for those who are at a particular stage of their life-cycle, such as the transition from school to professional life, or from full-time employment to retirement. Due to its embeddedness in the German society, the nonprofit sector might be well equipped to provide channels for social integration in times of unemployment.

Focusing on Germany, this paper tries to contribute to the current debate about the labour market potential of the nonprofit or third sector. In Germany, the topic of how to safeguard integration into the labour market ranks high on the political agenda. This is the case because after unification Germany, which used to be an island of stability and economic growth, has been hit by growing rates of unemployment (Fiedler 1999: 67).

This article will in a first step present a profile of the German nonprofit sector based on the empirical findings of the German study of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project. The analysis will focus on the structure and composition of nonprofit employment, addressing the question whether the sector will develop into a job machine of gainful employment in Germany. In a second step the employment structure of the sector in Germany will be presented - with special emphasis on working hour regulations - thus addressing the question whether the sector qualifies as a "transitional labour market" with some impact on the national employment situation. …

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