Program at a glance 2021



Covid-19 at work and private life: Methodological challenges and lessons learned from five German survey studies

Session Organisers Dr Nils Backhaus (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA))
Mrs Ines Entgelmeier (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA))
Dr Malte Schierholz (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
TimeFriday 2 July, 13:15 - 14:45

The Covid-19 pandemic makes survey research a balancing act: Policymakers and the public demand quick responses, but results must be valid and reliable. This session addresses challenges and opportunities, as well as lessons learned emerging from this dilemma.
Five large-scale German panel studies provide a look behind the scenes: The National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), the IAB High-Frequency Online Personal Panel (IAB-HOPP), the BAuA-Working Time Survey (BAuA-WTS), the survey “Establishments during the COVID-19-crisis” (BeCovid) and the Socio-Economic Panel Linked Employer Employee Study (SOEP-LEE2).
The presentations outline their different survey designs, questions, sampling and fieldwork strategies to examine the immediate and long-term consequences of Covid-19. The session will offer space to discuss the specific methodological challenges, such as systematic dropouts, uncertainty and unpredictability regarding the dynamic course of the pandemic and retrospective questions.

Keywords: Covid-19, panel surveys, employer surveys, employee surveys, survey methodology

Covid-19 supplementary surveys in NEPS: Challenges in data collection and first results

Dr Basha Vicari (Institute for Employment Research (IAB)) - Presenting Author
Dr Michaela Sixt (Leibniz Institute for Education Trajectories (LIfBi))
Mrs Annette Trahms (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))

When the combating of the Covid-19 pandemic led to severe cuts in all areas of life in Germany from March 2020 onwards, several institutes rapidly launched ad-hoc surveys or later supplements to panel surveys for investigating the effects of these cuts. The non-random surveys quickly provided first impressions of how different population groups were affected. However, they and partially also panel supplements came with all the methodological problems of participant’s self-selection.
The National Education Panel Study (NEPS) decided to launch supplementary surveys and questionnaire modules on effects of the Corona crisis, too. The NEPS is a panel survey that provides regularly longitudinal data on educational trajectories and competence development across six Starting Cohorts (SC, from newborns to adults) for more than 10 years. Its Corona supplements aims to obtain information on various life domains, such as on consequences for formal education, vocational training, employment, participation in further training and adult learning, family situation, politics and society, health, and well-being during the Corona crisis. Additionally, it should also cover pandemic-specific topics like e.g. loneliness, monetary or existence sorrows, conflicts, and learning from home.
In order to examine the short-term and immediate consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, NEPS conducted a supplementary online survey from May – June 2020 targeting at SC2 – SC6 participants. Filters navigated respondents through the items according to their Starting Cohort or life situations. This supplementary survey achieved an overall response rate of 27.3%, but dropouts were systematic and must be compensated for with sampling- and post-stratification weights.
For surveying these immediate effects also for the drop-outs and for examining longer lasting effects, a supplementary questionnaire module (NEPS-C module) was designed for inclusion into the regularly current wave of each Starting Cohort. This contains around 20 items, which were also filtered depending on respondents’ Starting Cohort and life situation. The conducting mode depended on the mode of the main survey.
The three NEPS adult surveys we would like to present in more detail (SC3: age 20 years, SC4: age 25 years, SC6: age 34–75 years) are currently in field from September 2020 until March 2021 and conducted as telephone interviews. When operationalizing the items for the NEPS-C-module, attention was paid to formulate the items in line with the established NEPS constructs in order to ensure longitudinal comparability. In order not to disturb the panel character of the main surveys, the NEPS-C module was placed as a complete module at the end of the regular questionnaires. Up to now, the response rates of these three Starting Cohorts are developing comparably to previous years.
In our presentation, we will show both the design and first results on the realization of the supplementary survey and module for NEPS-SC3, SC4 and SC6. By addressing their systematic dropouts, we discuss the main obstacles for analyzing this data and using it for generally valid statements on how the pandemic affected all areas of life.


How to set up an online panel during a pandemic: The IAB High-Frequency Online Personal Panel (HOPP)

Mr Georg-Christoph Haas (Institute for Employment Research (IAB)) - Presenting Author
Dr Bettina Müller (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
Dr Christopher Osiander (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
Mrs Julia Schmidtke (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
Mrs Annette Trahms (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
Mrs Marieke Volkert (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))

The corona-crisis affects everyday life around the world and rigorous government restrictions have been implemented to prevent the pandemic to spread further. Consequences of the corona-crisis and the associated policies for public health, social life, and the economy are drastic. Addressing the political demand for fast data to assess the changes of people’s social life and working situations of the German labor market population during the pandemic, the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) developed the High-frequency Online Personal Panel (HOPP). The HOPP study started in May 2020 and is based on a random sample of individuals drawn from the administrative data of the Federal Employment Agency in Germany, containing information on all labor market participants except civil servants and self-employed. The main goal of the HOPP study is to assess the short-term as well as long-term changes in people’s social life and working situation in Germany due to the corona pandemic. To monitor individual dynamics and to address newly arising data demands as timely as possible, the HOPP study collected data on a monthly (wave 1-4) and bi-monthly (wave 5-7) basis. Furthermore, respondents were divided into four random subsamples. The different subsamples of a new wave were invited to the survey at weekly intervals (wave 2-4) or bi-weekly intervals (wave 5-7). This gives us the advantage of being able to provide weekly data while each participant only had to participate on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. At the time of submission, the HOPP study conducted seven waves and the eighth wave is in preparation. Our presentation will provide insights in how we implemented the HOPP study concerning sampling, panel recruitment, contact strategy, panel maintenance and development of response rates. Furthermore, we discuss challenges and their solution that appeared during the fieldwork. The HOPP study is one of the few corona-related studies in Germany that is based on a random sample instead on a convenience sample. Therefore, researchers are able to use the HOPP to make reliable estimates of the effect of the corona-crisis on labor market participants. Furthermore, the combination of HOPP and the administrative data of the IAB enables labor market researchers to assess the long-term effects of the corona-crisis on labor market participants and outcomes, which makes it a unique data product.


How the pandemic changed the timing of work: Covid-19 in the BAuA-Working Time Survey

Mrs Johanna Nold (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA)) - Presenting Author
Mrs Ines Entgelmeier (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA))
Mrs Laura Vieten (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA))
Dr Nils Backhaus (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA))
Dr Anita Tisch (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA))

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have changed the working time conditions of many employees (e.g. Eurofound, 2020). On the one hand, short-time work leads to shorter working hours and loss of income and job insecurity. On the other hand, essential occupations are facing unprecedented increases in overtime and job intensity. Others started working in shifts (evening/night work) or working from home to reduce the number of contacts at the workplace or to facilitate childcare (e.g. Collins et al., 2020). These heterogeneous changes in working times have implications for occupational health, well-being and the work-life balance of employees. The BAuA-Working Time Survey is designed to monitor the working time conditions for German employees and its outcomes on work-life balance and health. In this presentation, we present the Covid-19 questionnaire module 2021 which focuses on the changes of working conditions – and working time in particular – since the beginning of the pandemic.
The BAuA-Working Time Survey is conducted biennially since 2015 by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health using computer-assisted telephone interviews. The survey is representative of the working population in Germany with a minimum of 10 paid working hours per week. We completed the data collection of the third wave in January 2020, before the spread of Covid-19 in Germany. In the fourth wave (planned for April-October 2021, n = 20’000), we focus on the changes due to Covid-19 on working time and working conditions.
Based on the data from previous surveys (2015, 2017, 2019), it is possible to analyse actual changes for employees and to examine the extent to which these are related to health, work-life balance. In order to understand these changes and to link it to Covid-19, we include a special Covid-19 questionnaire module. We ask retrospectively for major changes in work and private life due to the pandemic. The module includes questions regarding changes of various working time characteristics during the spread of Covid-19, e.g. length, location and flexibility of working time, as well as working from home. Furthermore, we address increased work intensity, job insecurity and social isolation during the pandemic.
In our talk, we present the Covid-19 questionnaire module and address the methodological challenges and lessons learned in the developmental process. We also present first insights from the first pretest and fieldwork. The main issues are the wording and temporal framing of retrospective questions (Hipp et al., 2020) and unpredictable containment measures during lockdowns in the Covid-19 situation during the fieldwork in 2021. The insights from the development of the module can be helpful for future retrospective questionnaires regarding the Covid-19 crisis.


Dynamics of the German labour market during the Covid-19 crisis

Professor Lutz Bellmann (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
Mrs Miriam Gensicke (Kantar)
Mr Patrick Gleiser (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
Dr Malte Schierholz (Institute for Employment Research (IAB)) - Presenting Author
Dr Jens Stegmaier (Institute for Employment Research (IAB))
Dr Anita Tisch (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA))

Scope – The new employer survey “Establishments during the COVID-19-crisis” (BeCovid) analyses the dynamic development of the German labour market during the first eleven months of the COVID-19 pandemic. To address the response of establishments in a rapidly evolving situation, there is a need for timely information. The IAB started the new survey in August 2020 and has since then been repeated it approximately every three weeks.
Design - The employer-survey “Establishments during the COVID-19-crisis” seeks to interview highly ranked representatives of German establishments. Establishments were selected at random from a comprehensive register, which has been developed as part of the German social security system. The survey was administered to establishments of all sizes and economic sectors with the exception of public establishments. The survey was carried out as a rotating panel. The survey data will be linked with administrative data and made available to non-commercial empirical research via the Research Data Centre of the German Federal Employment Agency (BA) at the IAB.
The interviews lasted 10-13 minutes and were conducted by the computer-aided telephone method. The first wave was carried out in early August among 1723 establishments. The initial response rate was 14 %. 84 % agreed to be asked again 2-3 weeks later. The second wave was from late August until early September, using these establishments plus a refresher sample with altogether 1556 establishments. Further survey waves followed at intervals of 2-3 weeks.
Results and implications – The first waves of BeCovid reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on businesses along a variety of dimensions. Establishments are not only confronted with higher requirements, but also limited in their national and international trade. By contrast, staff shortages due to sickness, quarantine or care-giving as well as permanent closure of (parts of) establishments occurred less often.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic required an adjustment of the occupational safety and health regulations in the workplace with the aim of safeguarding workers. The vast majority of companies have made no small effort to ensure infection protection.
The results further indicate that the establishments differ with respect to their hiring and layoff activities. One reason for the extent of layoffs is the large-scale use of publicly subsidised short-time work. In addition, the proportion of employees could use options to work from home increased significantly in comparison to the situation before the crisis. After the first lockdown, this level did not decrease especially if formal rules could be implemented and investments in hardware as well as software were made. Also, the results show that it is challenging to adequately provide establishment-level initial and further training during short-time work schemes and temporarily closure.


Socio-Economic Panel - Linked Employer Employee (SOEP-LEE2). Adjustments in firms located in Germany to Covid-19 and effects on employer-employee relations

Professor Wenzel Matiaske (Helmut-Schmidt-University)
Professor Torben Dall Schmidt (University of Southern Denmark) - Presenting Author
Dr Martina Maas (Helmut-Schmidt-University)

Covid-19 arrived in Western Europe in the beginning of 2020. Due to the high infectiousness of the virus, potential lethality and worries about health care capacities, stark restrictions on social, business and economic life were implemented. Firms were also affected from restrictions, as adjustments in the workplace were to reduce human-to-human transition of the virus. These changes at workplaces took place within a very short period, making the shock to workplace adjustments and organization different from for example changes induced from changes in labor market and business policies that would normally allow for a gradual implementation over a longer period. It accordingly becomes eminent to provide research infrastructure to offer insight into firm’s adjustments to such sudden needs for change and how this affects employer-employee relations. This is one purpose of SOEP-LEE2, which is an employer-employee database based extending SOEP into an employer-employee framing.
The SOEP-LEE2 is a project to create an extensive database using survey methods to offer insights into how adjustments in firms being employers relate to employee outcomes in different dimensions It accordingly gives the opportunity to investigate the effects of changes in firms and at the work place from Covid-19 (e.g. flexibility, remote work, job security and bottlenecks in operations) on individual well-being and other individual outcomes. The nature of the survey is that of a survey based on an employee-first procedure (Weinhardt, Jacobebbinghaus and Liebig, 2016). Employees in the SOEP are asked to details on employers upon which employers are surveyed based on these contact details. This makes selection issues eminent in assessing and using the data, having issues on selection in the sampling of employees in SOEP and the adjoin selection issues on their employers. Given such issues, the data is particularly valuable for specific types of analysis, which focus more on effects of firm change on individual outcomes. This is more so, as the data will be undertaken in two waves. One wave is collected in 2021. This offers insights into the short term effects of Covid-19 on employer-employee relationships, while second wave planned in 2023. This allows for more dynamic analysis on the changes in relationships.
The survey will be conducted in cooperation between DIW/SOEP Berlin and HSU/IPA Hamburg and focuses on employers with five or more employees which expected leads to a gross sample of 7000 firm addresses from the SOEP-CORE and arrive after a cross-check relative to business registers and phone records. Employers first get written material on data protection, are then contacted on phone to identify relevant interview persons and the survey is undertaken in a mixed-mode approach (CATI, CAWI, PAPI and CAPI) ensure sufficiently high response rates. Data generation is undertaken by an external partner specialized in surveys and polls. Interview are planned to follow a delegation principle allowing the first identified interview person to delegate specific questions on specialized issues to other specialist in the firms.