Mini-jobs in Germany were created to promote higher employment rates through income tax-free marginal employment, with workers making at most €450 a month in part-time jobs.
But a new study shows that many mini-job holders are in fact legally being paid too little for the amount of hours that they work.
About half of all mini-job holders were paid below the legal minimum wage of €8.50 per hour in 2015, according to a report by the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) published on Monday. The minimum wage has since been increased to €8.84.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung, which first reported on the study, calculated that this could add up to millions of people being underpaid as there are 7.4 million mini-job holders. And for most of these workers, their mini-job is their primary source of income.
“The figures do not leave any doubt that employers of a significant amount of mini-jobbers have not raised wages as legally required,” said authors Dr. Toralf Pusch and Dr. Hartmut Seifert in a statement.
“Marginal employment continues to remain predominantly characterized by low pay,” adding that the minimum wage - implemented for the first time in Germany in 2015 - was apparently “still not comprehensively applied” to mini-jobs.
The study authors had looked at data from two surveys of employees about their income and working hours, and did not include those who are not legally guaranteed a minimum wage, such as interns.
They found that after the introduction of the minimum wage in January 2015, only some of the people holding mini-jobs saw their pay improve. In 2014, around 60 percent of mini-job holders earned less than €8.50 per hour. In 2015, this fell to about 50 percent. Even five to 11 months after the law was implemented, 44 percent were still underpaid.
“This suggests that a considerable amount of employers didn’t just slowly adjust to the wages, but also did not adjust at all,” author Pusch wrote.
According to one of the interview surveys, around 20 percent of mini-job workers were paid €5.50 per hour, and another nearly 40 percent earned at most €7.50 per hour.
The study authors said that the results support other findings about poor conditions for mini-job holders. For example, prior research had revealed that employers often do not offer paid sick leave, even though they are legally obligated to.
“These results show that it is obviously not enough to stipulate minimum wage as a law,” the researchers said, adding that there must be further regulations.
“It’s necessary to have appropriate measures for effective control.”
A spokesperson for the Minijob Zentrale, a government agency, argued that employers must adhere to the laws.
“Minimum wage, paid sick leave and vacation time also pertains to mini-jobs,” the spokesman said, adding that employees must also inform themselves of their rights.