Key topics

The iaw has honed its research profile over recent years by concentrating on three key topics. This has facilitated the closer integration of the research units and also allowed them to concentrate on overarching questions.

The iaw’s strategic aim is to follow the developments and discourses that are relevant to the three key topics in order to derive research questions related to workers’ living and working conditions and so to generate new research projects.

New forms of governance: Managing, regulating and cordination in reflexive modernity

In light of the research perspective on governance, the iaw focuses its research on institutional forms and mechanisms of societal management, regulation and coordination. In recent years, this analytical perspective has not only been pursued in regard to the employment system but has also been extended to other societal functions: the development of economic and social structures and functional problems in the political-administrative system.


Sustainability research at the iaw is based on a resource-oriented sustainability concept. The projects investigating sustainability cover a broad spectrum, ranging from primarily analytically-oriented to application-oriented transdisciplinary research. Issues studied include the sustainable organisation of work in national, regional and firm-based contexts as well as urban and regional development. Questions of how “work” can continue to ensure social participation and inclusion as well as the psycho-social integration and stabilisation of workers are being addressed, as are those of how “work” can continue to materially secure livelihoods and provide social entitlements to protection against social risks (illness, old age, etc.). On the one hand, work is understood as a key element of social and economic sustainability. At the same time, however, work is also associated with interventions into society’s relations with nature. This gives rise to research questions on how work can not only contribute to using up natural resources but also to the conservation or regeneration of the natural foundations for life, e.g. by means of ecological innovation work.


The research perspective “Transformation” is concerned with understanding the complexity of the dynamics of social change. The causes of such processes include crises (whether caused by the economy, the climate or pandemics), social conflicts, but also new ideas or strategic aims such as those formulated in the sustainability discourse. Furthermore, digitisation or other technical innovations, social processes such as globalisation or individualisation, but also aspects of social structure such as demographics, migration or social inequality etc. are also named as drivers of change and transformation. Our projects aim to identify the interactions and interdependencies between these different developments in different fields of action as well as to analyse their consequences. Since the pressure to act on the corresponding changes is often global, but the specifications of the adaptation and governance processes as well as sustainability objectives are still largely implemented by national actors, multi-level analyses are particularly relevant.