Lohndumping

The term Lohndumping (“wage dumping”) has become widely used in Germany over the past few years. Like many political buzzwords, it’s hard to define precisely: It refers in a general sense to the act of offering excessively low wages; accusations of “Lohndumping” are regularly voiced in low-wage sectors to highlight the ostensibly exploitive behavior of employers. Regardless of whether this term is useful and appropriate for drawing attention to unjust wage arrangements, I’ve always been uncomfortable with it sheerly on account of its etymology as a pseudo-English permutation of “price dumping.” “Price dumping,” of course, refers to a form of predatory behavior in which products manufactured cheaply in one market are “dumped” en masse onto another market, thereby depressing the price and running out the domestic competition. The term “Lohndumping” therefore strikes the native speaker of English as peculiar, for wages cannot be “dumped” in a figurative sense as products can. As a neologism that appears to have its origins in a misunderstanding of English, it’s highly disconcerting when prominent German politicians and economists employ the term “wage dumping” in English press conferences, unaware that the term simply doesn’t exist. The translators at Der Spiegel also seem to be in the dark, using “wage dumping” without explanation in the English version of a current article on the Greek debt crisis. A gloss is clearly needed here, as is recognized by the New York Times (note that the term “wage dumping” has only appeared 6 times in the history of the NYT’s publication, and in all instances to refer to statements made by a German politician or intellectual).

3 thoughts on “Lohndumping”

  1. Great blog!
    I stumbled across it whilst looking for a decent translation of “Lohndumping”, and will be using your “excessively low wages”. Hope they are high enough for a cup of coffee with lunch…
    Thank you!

  2. I love the way you decerne details like this one – I’m German and would never have noticed how weird this expression must seem to an English native speaker! Thanks!

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