Project Information

Better Representation of White Collar Workers for a Sustainable Future of Industrial Relations in Manufacturing (BEREP)

Background and Research Questions

The number and importance of white-collar employees in the manufacturing sectors is increasing significantly. This is due to rationalisation and outsourcing in production areas as well as the growing importance of white-collar jobs, especially in research and development or software production. Given this structural change in employment, the reference points for the trade union representation of workers' interests are shifting at the same time, because skilled production workers as the traditional core group of trade union representation of interests are losing importance. In many European countries, however, the new core group of white-collar workers with higher qualifications is far less organised in trade unions. In line with this, the tradition of the German sociology attributes other orientations to white-collar workers, such as career development and orientation towards the economic success of their companies, which make this group appear more difficult for trade unions to organise.

Against this background, IAQ, together with industriAll Europe, is investigating the conditions for successful unionisation of white-collar workers, which is a central prerequisite for the preservation of union organising power and thus also of the practices of social partnership developed so far in the industrial sectors. This will be done in cooperation with several national affiliates of industriAll Europe. The focus of our research is on three questions:

  1. What are the characteristics and employment conditions of white-collar work in Europe?
  2. What do the interests and orientations of white-collar workers look like with regard to working conditions and the role and functions of trade unions?
  3. What strategies and instruments of organising white-collar workers have trade unions developed sso far, and can elements of successful organising practice be identified?


These three research questions will be addressed by using three different methods:

  1. The quantitative analysis of secondary data on working conditions, mainly based on European but also on national data sets;
  2. an own survey of the orientations of white-collar employees in three countries (Germany, Finland and France);
  3. finally, workshops with experts from eight national trade unions in the industrial sector, in which trade union strategies and instruments of organising of white-collar workers in these countries will be collected. 

Project data

Term of the project:
01.08.2022 - 31.07.2024

Reseach department:
Working-Time and Work Organisation

Project management:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter

Project team:
Dr. Angelika Kümmerling, Christine Üyük,Dr. Thorsten Kalina