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More and more second and third jobs - an indicator of Germany's impoverishment?

Never before have so many people in Germany had more than one job at the same time.

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More and more second and third jobs - an indicator of Germany's impoverishment?

Never before have so many people in Germany had more than one job at the same time. In the third quarter of this year, the Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Research (IAB) counted 4.29 million multiple employees. This corresponds to almost ten percent of all employees. For comparison: in 2010 there were almost 2.9 million people, in 2000 less than 1.7 million. On the surface, it seems clear to many: due to financial hardship, more and more employees are dependent on a second job, and the salary from one job is not enough to live on.

"There are more and more people who apparently cannot cover the rising cost of living from their main job," said the Social Association Germany (SoVD) when asked. The high inflation will ensure a further increase. "Anyone who has several jobs often tries to keep their heads above water with several poorly paid mini-jobs," says Verena Bentele, President of the VdK social association, to WELT.

The fact that many employees are simply dependent on a second or even third job is a fact. “For many, the salary of a job is not enough. They have to earn extra money for economic reasons,” says Sebastian Link, labor market expert at the Munich ifo Institute. Therefore, the proportion of multiple employees is particularly high in the low-wage sector.

Surveys on multiple employment show: In most cases, a second or third job is accepted in order to supplement the household income through marginal employment. According to a study by the German Economic Institute (IW), this was the case for 91 percent of the additional 700,000 multiple employees between 2013 and 2021.

And a study by the Hans Böckler Foundation, which is close to the trade union, also shows that the most important motives for working several jobs are monetary reasons and social security. For 53 percent of those surveyed, financial difficulties or hardships were decisive.

But the phenomenon of multiple employment is more complex. Because there is a second group that is also growing. Economists often call them "hybrid workers." "Lack is not always the reason for multiple employment," says researcher Link. For example, family reasons played a role.

"The proportion of part-time jobs has increased in recent years, which is also reflected in many advertisements for highly qualified positions." Between 2013 and 2019, the IW also recorded a significant increase of 13 percent among so-called hybrid employees to almost 690,000.

However, the motivation in this group is different - because they are not dependent on additional income at all. As a result, the salary in the main job is often high, and the qualifications are usually above average. A classic example is a scientist who also advises politicians or companies on the side. "The motives are numerous," says IAB researcher Enzo Weber.

For those who do not work several times due to financial hardship, self-realization, flexibility in terms of time, broadening perspectives or specific consumer wishes play a role. The expert also lists helping others or insufficient workload in the main job as reasons.

Changes in the world of work are also contributing to the boom in multiple employment. The expansion of the service sector and increasing digitization have significantly increased the opportunities for low-threshold entry into "small jobs", says Karin Schulze Buschoff, labor market expert at the Economic and Social Sciences Institute (WSI) of the Böckler Foundation. It is mainly the self-employed who take this step. "In the platform economy, for example, owning a mobile device is often enough to carry out the activity."

A WSI study on multiple employment shows that secondary employment often includes simple, mostly unskilled work – but also activities in the areas of design, media and marketing or education and social affairs. “It is noteworthy that the part-time job is usually in a different industry and in a different occupational field than the main job,” says Schulze Buschoff. The level of requirement is often far apart in the main and part-time job.

For social organizations and trade unions, however, the disadvantages of multiple employment outweigh the disadvantages. "The downside are gaps in social security, especially low pension entitlements, few opportunities for further training and promotion," says Karin Schulze Buschoff. The continued payment of wages in the event of illness as well as vacation and public holiday pay are often not complied with. The most recent traffic light decision to raise the earnings limit for mini jobs to 520 euros only continued existing problems. "The need for reform remains."

"It is clear that the number of registered multiple jobs is related to mini-jobs," says Karl Brenke from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). Their number is also remarkably high. According to the Federal Employment Agency (BA), there are currently almost 7.2 million. This increase is due to the mini-job reform in 2003.

Before that, all part-time jobs were subject to social security contributions. Almost 20 years ago, a way was created "to convert activities into legal employment," according to the mini-job center. Brenke, on the other hand, is more critical of the development: "In fact, what is behind it is that undeclared work was legalized en masse at the time."

Legal factors and the increase in the minimum wage could also play a role for some multiple employees. "Perhaps it is worthwhile for a cleaning assistant to leave a cleaning company and clean at the notary's, at the dentist's and in the pharmacy on your own and to conclude a mini-job contract with each position," says Brenke.

On the other hand, some companies would have converted regular employment subject to social security contributions into mini-jobs in order to save on social security contributions. However, the study situation is bad. The selected examples should therefore be understood more as hypotheses. "In any case, it cannot be deduced from an increase in multiple employment that working hours will also increase at the same time."

The contributions are also a key factor for the social associations. The SoVD advocates converting mini-jobs into employment subject to social security contributions. Because benefits such as unemployment benefits, short-time work benefits or pensions are lower. After all, the first part-time job for employees is completely tax-free.

Verena Bentele makes an even more radical reform proposal. Multiple employment is “a popular tool” for companies to avoid social security contributions. She therefore calls for a general abolition in order to provide employees with better social security. "Employment must be subject to social security contributions from the first euro."

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 5 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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