Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung

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Inhaltsbereich: Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung

IAB's history

Foundation of the Institute

The IAB was founded on 1 April 1967 with the nomination of its first Director, Dieter Mertens. A month later, with the appointment of its first staff, it commenced work. Initially, there was no legal basis for setting up the Institute within the then Federal Employment Service (Bundesanstalt für Arbeit, BA). The establishment of the Institute was essentially, if not exclusively, triggered by the controversial debate on automation, namely the connection between technical progress on the one hand and economic/social development on the other. At the time, experts feared that there would be considerable redundancies or, at the very least, up till then unseen interruptions in working biographies as a result of the progressive automation of production. In setting up the IAB, the Federal Employment Service aimed at contributing to providing answers to the questions posed by structural change through the provision of well-substantiated research results.

This is why, as early as at the turn of the year 1964/1965, the leadership of the BA began to develop conceptual ideas of what the aims and parameters of labour market and occupational research might look like. These considerations led to the establishment of the task force "Structural Change in the Economy" composed of well-reputed academics and social scientists. This task force developed suggestions regarding the tasks, working methods and structure of labour market research which were subsequently taken up by the Self-government Board of the Federal Employment Service, in particular the committee "Technical Progress and the Labour Market". The committee introduced a work plan at the end of 1965 aimed at establishing the IAB; however it was not until four years later that labour market and occupational research was firmly anchored as the remit of the Federal Employment Service by way of the Employment Promotion Act (Arbeitsförderungsgesetz, AFG) passed in 1969.

The establishment of IAB took place at a time when political powers were keen to underpin social and economic issues as far as possible with scientific fact. The 60s and early 70s in particular were marked by deliberate efforts on the part of various departments of the Federal Administration to carry out research and this led to the emergence of numerous scientific establishments. Examples are the German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (das Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung), the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik) and the Institute for Population Studies (Institut für Bevölkerungswissenschaften) at the Federal Statistical Office (Statistischen Bundesamt). A further expression of the politicians' need for advice was the establishment of the German Council of Economic Experts (Sachverständigenrat) to evaluate economic development as a whole.

Developments in the quality of the research work

In the early days of the Institute – in contrast to today – it was not broad-based policy advice that was in the foreground but rather the task of assisting the placement and advisory units of the Federal Employment Service by providing scientifically substantiated (occupational) forecasts. However the significance of labour market research soon began to grow. This fact was subsequently given a legal base in the Employment Promotion Act (Arbeitsförderungsgesetz, AFG) which defined the research mandate of the IAB in a much more comprehensive way than the Federal Employment Service had intended: labour market research was to lay the scientific foundations for the implementation of labour market policy measures and contribute to their optimization.

To do justice to its research mandate, the IAB set up various different internal research units as early as mid-1967 to cover a broad interdisciplinary spectrum (for instance, macroeconomics, sociology and occupational research). At that time, the focus was on projecting short- and long-term developments in the labour market as well as on the question of the causes for the changes observed both nationally and internationally. The role played by technology in production processes, along with those of qualifications and of particular occupations in respect to the integration of the individual into the labour market, was likewise the subject of important strands of research. In the 90s, macroeconomic policy analysis using the so-called "Sysifo Model" gained in importance. It depicted the impacts of policy measures at the level of the economy as a whole by way of simulations. The result was the emergence of a bundle of strategic measures aimed at increasing employment (Strategiebündel für mehr Beschäftigung) that met with great resonance both within the Self-government Board of the BA and within the political sphere as a whole (such as the Alliance for Jobs, Further Education and Competitiveness – Bündnis für Arbeit, Ausbildung und Wettbewerbsfähigkeit).

Once the foundation phase had been completed, the IAB had a total of roughly 100 academic and non-academic staff. Up to the end of the 80s, there was little change in this number of personnel but at the beginning of the 90s the number began to grow because the work to be done had increased in the wake of German reunification. For instance, some of the employees of the Central Research Institute for Labour (Zentrales Forschungsinstitut für Arbeit, ZFA) in Dresden, that had been dissolved in 1991, were taken on. After that the IAB, including the research staff at particular local employment offices (today, project staff of the IAB), numbered at least 140 till the end of 2003. The doubling of staff levels up to the current number had various reasons which will be explained in the following sections. Of particular importance were the setting up of the Regional Research Network (Regionales Forschungsnetz), that was developed from the small research departments formerly attached to the Regional Employment Offices, and the establishment of the Research Data Centre (FDZ) of the Federal Employment Agency at the Institute for Employment Research. Along with this, the number of staff rose when the IAB became a special office of the BA, and through the new administrative tasks this entailed. Finally, the additional research mandate formulated in the second book of the Social Code (SGB II) was accompanied by a further staff increase.

Since it was founded, the IAB has had four male and one lady director. From 1967 to 1987 Dieter Mertens, a Professor of Economics previously on the staff of the German Institute for Economic Research (Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, DIW) in Berlin, headed the Institute. In 1988 the economist and former Rector of the University of Paderborn, Friedrich Buttler, became Director and remained so until 1994. After that there was an interim period during which the affairs of the Institute were provisionally guided for a number of years by the former chief of the Research Department "Short-term Labour Market Forecasts and Research on Working Time" (Kurzfristige Arbeitsmarktvorausschau und Arbeitszeitforschung), Dr Hans-Peter Leikeb. He was succeeded in 1997 by Gerhard Kleinhenz who had previously taught at the University of Passau and in whom a Professor of Economics was once more entrusted with the reins of the Institute. Gerhard Kleinhenz left in Autumn 2002 just before – in the person of Jutta Allmendinger – Professor of Sociology became Director of the IAB for the first time at the beginning of 2003. Previously, she had been Head of the Institute for Sociology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and Chair of the German Society of Sociology (Gesellschaft für Soziologie, DGS). She left IAB in April 2007, moving on to become President of the Social Science Research Center Berlin (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin, WZB) and to a professorship at the Humboldt University, also in Berlin. As of October 2007, the Institute was headed by the Regensburg Professor of Economics, Joachim Möller. Previously he had given advice and support to IAB as a member of the Scientific Advisory Council. Professor Möller retired in October 2018. Since September 2019 Bernd Fitzenberger, Professor of Economics, is the new Director of the Institute.

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