Facing economic liberalization and industrial restructuring since the mid-1980s, Taiwan's labour has been advocating the idea of industrial democracy. The German co-determination system has been admired as a model to emulate by some of Taiwan's labour activists. Although the demand for workplace democracy in Taiwan seems to be promising given recent economic pressures and political democratization, the future realization of this notion remains in doubt due to the lack of complementary institutional environments in which the German co-determination system is embedded. This article identifies seven key institutional factors affecting the making of industrial democracy, which consist of cultural values and ideologies, labour power, strategies of capital, the role of the state, the legal system, participatory structures and labour education. Using a historical comparative approach, this article compares the differences in these institutional factors and explains the relative effectiveness of the realization of industrial democracy between these two societies.