According to a survey, only 47 percent of employees in Germany receive vacation pay. The differences between the individual sectors and regions are large.
Just under half of all employees in the private sector in Germany receive holiday pay. As the collective bargaining archive of the Economic and Social Science Institute (WSI) of the Hans Böckler Foundation announced today, employees in eastern Germany generally receive less holiday pay (34 percent) than employees in the west (49 percent). “This difference is primarily due to the significantly lower collective bargaining coverage in eastern Germany,” explained the foundation.
According to an online survey of almost 60,000 people, whether employees receive holiday pay depends on the size of the company and the gross monthly wage. The more people work in a company and the higher the income, the greater the chance of the corresponding special payment. At the same time, the WSI emphasized that larger companies are more often bound by a collective bargaining agreement and that the level of wages is also related to this.
In companies bound by collective agreements, the proportion of employees with holiday pay is 74 percent – and thus significantly higher than the proportion in private companies without a collective agreement (35 percent). For Germany as a whole, the rate is 47 percent.
Comparatively high vacation pay in the metal industry
How much money actually ends up in the holiday or household budget varies greatly from industry to industry. The WSI evaluated 22 collective bargaining sectors and came up with payments ranging from 180 euros for employees in east German agriculture and 2686 at the top end for employees in the west German wood and plastics industry. There is also a comparatively large amount of holiday pay in the metal industry, comparatively little in the hospitality industry.
Holiday pay is also higher in the West than in the East. Exceptions were the insurance industry, the chemical industry, the printing industry and the building cleaning trade, in which the same holiday allowance is paid in East and West Germany.
“Originally, the collectively agreed vacation pay introduced in many sectors since the 1960s was intended to enable more employees to take annual vacation,” said Thorsten Schulten, head of the WSI collective bargaining archive. At the moment, the special payment is more of a buffer for many employees to compensate for the increased cost of living. It is all the worse “that employees in the low-wage sector are once again among the losers, since they work much less frequently in companies with collective agreements and therefore usually get nothing when it comes to vacation pay”.
Holiday pay increased many times
However, according to the WSI, the collectively agreed vacation pay has increased in many areas in times of high inflation. This applies in particular to those sectors in which it is set as a certain percentage of collective wages. In the current year, this includes the main construction trades, the iron and steel industry, retail, the printing industry, the building cleaning trade, the wood and plastics processing industry, the paper processing industry and also the insurance industry
The increases in holiday pay therefore followed the general tariff increases and were mainly between 1.6 and 2.5 percent. The highest increase in holiday pay was in the iron and steel industry at 6.5 percent and in the building cleaning trade at 8.7 percent. The amount of the collectively agreed vacation pay varies greatly depending on the industry: employees in the middle salary group will receive between 180 and 2686 euros this year.
The background to the figures is a survey by the “Lohnspiegel.de” portal, which is managed by the WSI. Between May 2022 and April 2023, the information from 59,215 employees who took part in a continuous online survey was evaluated. “The survey is not representative, but due to the high number of cases it allows detailed insights into the world of work,” the institute explained. Employees in the public sector were not taken into account because their holiday and Christmas bonuses had been combined into a single annual bonus since the tariff reform of 2005.