Dissertation Abstracts

Personnel Policy in Shrinking Municipalities. East Germany, West Germany and Poland in Comparison

Author: Bartl, Walter , walter.bartl@soziologie.uni-halle.de
Department: Institute of Sociology
University: Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Reinhold Sackmann
Year of completion: 2010
Language of dissertation: German

Keywords: Demographic change , Local Government , Public Administration , Personnel policy
Areas of Research: Population , Regional and Urban Development , Political Sociology


An unintended consequence of the transformation process in Central and Eastern Europe was a decline in fertility rates and in many cases outmigration leading to an accelerated ageing and decline of populations. These general demographic changes are more heterogeneous on a local level which points to a coexistence of growing and shrinking municipalities. Shrinking population numbers are a problem at the local level since apart from local public administration in a more narrow sense many public services are provided at this level. It is likely that demand for these services will decline with declining population numbers leading to overcapacities and rising unit costs if supply structures cannot be adapted in the short run.

The internal labour markets of the public sector are said to be quite inflexible in their reactions to declines in demand for mass layoffs are usually avoided in favour of "natural" fluctuation combined with recruitment being reduced to a minimum (or zero). The latter response pattern in turn is likely to produce certain second order problems for organisational demography since the workforce of local entities is cut off from new knowledge (carried by new entrants). How do local decision makers perceive of demographic change in shrinking municipalities and how do they respond in their personnel policies?

The dissertation is based on 95 expert interviews in 21 municipalities from East Germany, West Germany and Poland. It comparatively looks, first, at institutional mechanisms translating demographic decline into an administrative problem for local governments. Second, it reconstructs organisational frames of demographic decline, and third, relates these frames to organisational coping strategies of local governments. Here, the focus is on strategies relevant for human resource management, since personnel costs account for one quarter to one third of the municipal budget in Germany and Poland. Fourth, the dissertation evaluates to wich extent the interviewees perceive the typical closure of the internal labour market in cases in times of cutbacks as generating unintended second order problems.