The labor force in 2001 numbered 41.9 million workers. Employment by sector was as follows: industry 33%, agriculture 3%, and services 64%. Official unemployment was at 9.8% in2002.
The right to organize and to join trade unions is guaranteed by law. As of 2002, about 29% of the eligible labor force was unionized. In 1991, the western trade unions successfully expanded eastward, where they created western structures in the new states, totally dominating overall development so that no GDR trade union survived reunification. The German Trade Union Federation (DGB), the largest federation, represented 85% of unionized workers in 2002. Disputes concerning the interpretation of labor agreements are settled before special labor courts. Wages and working conditions in virtually all commercial and industrial establishments are governed by collective bargaining agreements between employers' associations and trade unions.
Children under the age of 15 are generally prohibited from employment, and these child labor laws are strictly enforced. Although the average workweek ranges from 36 to 39 hours, the law allows a maximum workweek of 48 hours. Also mandated are a 25% premium for overtime; paid holidays and vacations (15 workdays annually, minimum, and 18 days for employees over 35 years of age); and a 10% premium for night work. However, under various collective bargaining agreements, most workers are entitled to an even greater wage premium for overtime work and even more vacation time than legally required (six weeks per year is typical). About 80% of German wage and salary earners are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, which partly explains the relatively high wages in the absence of a minimum wage law, and why working time and vacation provisions exceed legal requirements. Health and safety standards are stringently regulated.