August 3, 2021

In Europe, the end of partial unemployment, a danger for the labor market

Let’s call him John. He works for the low-cost British airline easyJet, is based in the United Kingdom and, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, estimates that he has only worked about 20 days in total. He kept his job only thanks to partial unemployment, which guarantees him 80% of his salary. But from the end of September, the British government will put an end to this generous system. “We are all extremely worried. The end of partial unemployment means either layoffs or drastic wage cuts ”, he explains.

At Ryanair, Laszlo Marothy, 35, a member of the cabin crew, shares this concern. He, with more than a decade of experience, has only two days of partial unemployment per month on average, thanks to the gradual resumption of air traffic. His partner, who does the same job but is younger, still has six to seven a month.

“In some small airports, like Leeds or Bournemouth, which have fewer flights, the number of days of short-time work is even higher”, underlines this representative of the Unite union. He is extremely worried about the course of September, particularly if a fourth pandemic wave materializes. Irish company Ryanair claims to be ” end ” to its use of partial unemployment, but warns that the return of “Unnecessary restrictions” between borders could be a game-changer.

Read also Covid-19: the end of short-time working, a challenge for Europe

The case of these two companies illustrates a shift at work across Europe: governments are starting to eliminate or reduce access to short-time working. The UK is the most extreme case. The system did not exist before the outbreak of the health crisis and it must be completely abolished at the end of September.

Elsewhere on the continent, access conditions are tightening. In France, since 1is July, part-time workers receive 72% of their net salary, against 84% previously (the most affected sectors retain coverage at 84% until the end of August). In Germany, from September 30, the state will only provide half of the reimbursement of social charges due by the employer, against all currently. In Spain, the follow-up to be given to the “ERTE”, the partial unemployment system, is debated: the Minister of the Economy, Nadia Calviño, calls for “Supervise the exit from the extraordinary ERTE regime, which was used to respond to the crisis”.

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