Labor Minister: Martin Kocher: Corona short-time work is conceivable until March 2022 at the latest

Labor Minister: Martin Kocher: Corona short-time work is conceivable until March 2022 at the latest

The Minister of Labor could envisage short-time working transitional arrangements for “very specific areas” after the end of June. After the reform, unemployment benefits do not necessarily have to be lower, says Kocher in an APA interview.

8:56 a.m., March 21, 2021

Labor Minister Martin Kocher © APA / HELMUT FOHRINGER

For labor ministers Martin Kocher (ÖVP) an extension of short-time work is conceivable. “Corona short-time work until March 2022 at the latest would be conceivable for very specific areas,” Kocher said in an APA interview. “When it comes to long-term prospects, you have to think about whether short-time work is the right tool.” Most recently, 488,000 people were registered for Corona short-time work, which is currently limited to the end of June.

Talks with the social partners

For certain areas, Kocher can imagine “a transitional arrangement” beyond the summer. “You could fix that to industries or sales developments, you could also make changes to the replacement rates or the minimum working hours,” said the labor minister. There are a few parameters that can be adjusted in order to make the short-time work option “more specific”. As soon as the far-reaching lockdowns are over, Kocher pleads for changes. “Short-time work in an upswing would be counterproductive if it had such a large impact as it is now.” In the next few weeks there will be talks with the social partners to adapt the Corona short-time work after the end of June.

Highest unemployment rates in the Second Republic

The corona crisis has led to the highest unemployment figures in the Second Republic. In 2020, an average of 467,000 people were unemployed, an increase of around 29 percent compared to 2019. In mid-March there were 468,500 unemployed and AMS training participants. According to the IHS and Wifo forecast, the pre-crisis unemployment level could be reached by 2024. “The big goal of us is to be there earlier,” said the Minister of Labor. “In the labor market, it will take a while for the crisis to be fully digested.”

When the acute corona crisis is over, Kocher wants to turn some labor market policy levers. One has to discuss how the labor market can function better. “The start of this discussion can be on the agenda in the course of the second half of the year. The aim would be to accelerate the upswing,” said the Minister of Labor. With the envisaged reform of the unemployment benefit Kocher wants to look at all options. “It is – this is very, very important – all of the regulations.” Topics include additional earnings limits, placement efforts and everything to do with unemployment benefits. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that unemployment benefits have to be lower at the end than they are now, at the beginning it should be higher. Otherwise a degressive model makes no sense.”

One-time payment for the unemployed?

In the coming months, the Minister of Labor intends to pay particular attention to long-term unemployment and the higher unemployment rate among young people and women. For people who were unemployed for a long time before the corona crisis, Kocher now wants to take a look at all the measures. “Then we will take the next steps.”

Kocher left it open whether there will be a third one-off payment for the unemployed. Last September and December there was a supplement to unemployment benefit of 450 euros each. “We are already hoping to get out of the pandemic. If that is not the case, everything has to be on the table,” said the minister.

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