A man in a West German company usually gets holiday pay. A woman in the East German hotel and catering industry, on the other hand, can hardly count on the special payment at the beginning of the holiday season. All in all, slightly less than half (46 percent) of employees in the private sector in Germany receive vacation pay.

This is the result of an online survey by the portal Lohnspiegel.de of the trade union Böckler Foundation, which is based on the information provided by 66,000 employees. “In view of the high inflation rates, the holiday pay is a blessing for many employees this year,” commented Thorsten Schulten, head of the Böckler Foundation’s collective bargaining archive, on the current figures. But it is precisely in the low-wage sector, where money is needed most, that special payments are rarest.

Whether employees receive holiday pay and how much depends on several factors. The most important thing is that the employer is bound by a collective bargaining agreement: 74 percent of employees in companies that are bound by collective agreements receive holiday pay. In companies without a tariff, the rate is only 36 percent. The public sector was not taken into account in the Böckler analysis, since holiday and Christmas bonuses are combined in a single annual bonus there.

In addition to the collective bargaining agreement, the region, the size of the company and gender are important influencing factors: Holiday bonuses are paid much less frequently in eastern Germany than in western Germany. While 32 percent of employees in the East receive the money, it is 48 percent in the West. “This difference is primarily due to the significantly lower collective bargaining coverage in eastern Germany,” writes the Böckler Foundation. Currently, 54 percent of West German and 45 percent of East German employees work in companies with a collective agreement.

Since large companies are more likely to use a collective agreement than small ones, there is also more holiday pay there. After all, 49 percent of men work in companies that pay vacation pay and only 41 percent of women.

The higher the monthly income, the greater the likelihood of receiving holiday pay. The scientists also explain this with the collective bargaining agreement, which is lower in the low-wage areas of the service industries, where an above-average number of women work, than in well-paying industrial companies with a high proportion of men. Only 36 percent of low-income earners with a gross monthly wage of less than 2,300 euros receive holiday pay, compared to just under 49 percent in the higher pay brackets.

Employees in agriculture and in the hotel and catering industry receive the least holiday pay. Workers in wood and plastics processing, in the paper processing industry and in the metal and printing industries receive the highest payments. In the meantime, there has been an East-West alignment in the insurance industry, in the chemical industry and in the building cleaning trade; the holiday pay is identical in these sectors.

Compared to 2021, the collectively agreed vacation pay has increased in half of the sectors examined by the Böckler Foundation. This is particularly true where holiday pay is set as a certain percentage of collective wages, such as in the motor vehicle trade, in the wood and plastics processing industry, in retail or in the main construction trades. The increases in holiday pay then follow the general wage increases and were mostly between 1.5 and 3.0 percent. The highest growth was 5.8 percent in East German construction and 5.2 percent in Brandenburg retail. In both sectors, the difference to the level of holiday pay in the West has thus been significantly reduced.