Business & Economy

42 million EU workers on paid leave amid pandemic

By Laura Pérez-Cejuela

Brussels, May 16 (efe-epa).- Some 42 million European Union workers, one in four, have been affected by temporary layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The sudden paralysis economies have been plunged into as a result of containment measures to halt the spread of Covid-19 has pushed EU member states to resort to temporary layoffs, furloughs and wage cuts with governments footing the bill in a bid to save economies.

By early May, 26 percent of the EU’s 160 million workers had been enlisted for short-time work or similar forms of temporary wage subsidies, setting a record not even reached during the 2008 financial crisis, according to the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

France is the country where the schemes are most widespread with 48 percent of the workforce affected (11 million workers), followed by Italy with 47 percent (8 million), Germany with 27 percent ( 10 million), Spain with 24 percent (4 million) and the Netherlands with 23 percent (1.7 million).

In Portugal, the Czech Republic, Finland, Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia, temporary layoffs have been issued to under 5 percent of the workforce, according to the report.

ETUI says the employment schemes have been an effective measure to prevent layoffs in the short term and a sudden spike in unemployment rates as has happened in the United States where the pandemic has left 33 million people out of work.

General Secretary Luca Visentini said that compared to the 42 million workers with short term work or temporary wage subsidies, there are between 10 and 15 million people who are at risk of losing their jobs due to a lack of access to these schemes.

The schemes are not foolproof either, and Visenti warned there were vacuums in their implementation and payment delays.

“In many countries aid has not yet reached the people. In Italy, there are supposed to be 12 million people with a temporary layoff, but half of them have had no wages for two months,” he told Efe.

In many countries, the self-employed, temporary and migrant workers are not covered by these programs and for those who are receiving wage subsidies, the aid does not even cover 80 percent of normal salaries, which ETUI suggest should be the minimum payment.

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