The number of salaried employees grew greatly in the postwar era in West Germany, from 16 percent of the workforce in 1950, to 33 percent in 1974, and to 42 percent in 1989. Salaried employees work in three main areas: commercial, technical, and administrative. In 1989, 68 percent of salaried employees worked in the services sector and 32 percent in industry.
Geissler divides salaried employees (including civil servants) into two groups: a lower group that performs simple routine tasks (hairdressers, salesclerks, bus drivers, and low-level civil servants such as letter carriers) and that in 1989 accounted for 9 percent of West Germany's population; and an upper group with advanced education and responsibility, often unsupervised, that performs complex tasks (accountants, teachers, lawyers, and engineers) and that accounted for 28 percent of the population. The jobs of the upper group often involve much stress, and half its members have complained of it, compared with less than one-fourth of skilled workers.
In 1988 the households of salaried employees in West Germany earned on the whole 36 percent more than workers' households. Studies have found that despite their modest social prestige and income, only 13 percent of the lower group of salaried employees regard themselves as workers. Salaried employees as a whole see themselves as belonging to the middle class. According to various studies cited by Geissler, the social animosity that prevailed between salaried employees and workers in the first half of the twentieth century has evolved into a more subtle sense of belonging to different groups. This feeling of distinctness is most strongly felt by salaried employees far removed from the workbench, for example, those in banking.
Generally speaking, salaried employees tend to believe that they must look out for themselves on an individual basis, rather than collectively, as is more common among workers. The higher salaried employees rise in their profession, the more likely this is to be the case. In consequence, a smaller portion of salaried employees are members of labor unions than are workers.
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