Cornell University

Global Call Center Project

169 Ives Faculty Building, 607-254-4437


National Country Report

Scholten, Jessica and Holtgrewe, Ursula.  2006.  The Global Call Center Industry Projekt -- Deutschland: Erste Ergebnisse der Telefonumfrage fr Deutschland. No. 2/2006, Duisburger Beitrzur Soziologischen Forschung.

Call Centers in Germany

In Germany, the expansion of the call center sector started in the mid-1990s -- later than in the US and UK – but similar to the timing in other continental EU countries. As elsewhere, it was lead by telecommunications and financial services, but soon independent service contractors, which had often evolved from direct marketing and office service companies, offered call center services to other industries. Deregulation in telecommunications, financial services, and utility markets, an increasing market-orientation of organizations in general, and the development of information and communication technologies supporting both standardized and complex services contributed to these developments.

Main Research Interests of the German Call Center Studies

The aim of the German Project is to identify successful practices and arrangements of the organization of work, technology use, human resource management, payment systems, and interest representation on an organizational level and in comparison to other countries.  The results of our research are of interest to call center managers as well as to members of work councils, trade unions, regional development agencies and other actors of (political) institutions.

Our main interests of research are:

  • Analyzing call centers as a medium and result of institutionalization processes
  • Flexible and non-standard forms of employment in call centers
  • The role of trade unions in call centers
  • Gender composition in call centers
  • The role of technology for outsourcing and flexibilizing processes

Highlights of the National Report

The German Report draws on a standardized telephone survey administered in September and October 2004 by the Social Research Institute of the University Duisburg-Essen (SUZ). In this survey, 300 telephone call centers were randomly sampled from a data base of 2,700 German call centers. The response rate was 51.3% (n = 154).

Scope of Market

German call centers are focused primarily on the local, regional, and national markets, with only 14% primarily serving the international market.

Workforce Demographics and Education

On average 72% of the call center agents are women.  The educational level of customer service representatives supports the view that the call center labor force in Germany is “not unskilled”: 75% of the agents have completed occupational training in the German dual system.  Demands for flexibility in German call centers are mostly covered by part time work.

In-house Centers and Subcontractors

Compared to outsourced subsidiaries and independent contractors, in-house centers generally offer better working conditions and employee discretion at work; invest more in screening, recruiting, and initial training of the employees; have higher rates of pay; and have a workforce with higher average tenure; and have lower absenteeism rates.   They also make more use of flexible forms of employment contracts.

Unions and Works Councils

The presence of unions in call centers is limited, but it makes a difference in terms of pay, tenure, and human capital investment.  Inhouse call centers are more frequently covered by collective agreements (such as industry-specific agreements) and have more frequently established works councils.

Berlin Workshop, 2005. "The Global Call Center Industry - Emerging Patterns of Employment, Union Representation and Job Design", Berlin 23/24, 2005.

German Research Team

Dr. Ursula Holtgrewe
Forschungs- und Beratungsstelle Arbeitswelt (FORBA)
(Working Life Research Center)
Aspernbrueckengasse 4/5
A 1020 Wien

Karen Shire, Professor
Comparative Sociology
Institute of Sociology & Institute of East Asian Studies
University of Duisburg
Duisburg, Germany
Jessica Longen
Graduate School Topology of Technology
University of Technology Darmstadt
Magdalenenstr. 10, TU-Kraftwerk, Raum S1 07/204, 64283 Darmstadt

Dr. Virginia Doellgast
Lecturer in Comparative HRM
King's College London
Department of Management
150 Stamford Street
London SE1 9NH

Hannelore Mottweiler
University of Duisburg
Duisburg, Germany

Co-Sponsors of the Report: Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Russell Sage Foundation

For more information, contact: Karen Shire at, GCC Project Germany.