Is short-time work a cause for great concern? Not always. Some people affected suffer from existential fear, but by no means all. Researchers even warn against seeing everything too positively and comfortably.
EActually, short-time work is a bad sign: companies try to use it to work their way through difficult times until better days come again – hopefully. Many employees in Germany do not perceive short-time working in the current crisis as very threatening, but rather as surprisingly positive. That is the result of a representative survey of more than 3,600 employed persons in the months of June and July, which is available to the FAZ.
According to this, 43 percent of those who were still affected by short-time working in the past year or at the time of the survey responded to the question of their conclusion that they had experienced the time as “overall valuable”. On the other hand, only about half as many (24 percent) found their experience “overall stressful”. Men report somewhat more often (in 29 percent of cases) of existential fears triggered by short-time work than women (21 percent); on the other hand, significantly more women than men found the time of short-time working “valuable”.
The Corona crisis has made short-time work a mass phenomenon in Germany: According to calculations by the Institute for Employment Research, around 20 percent of employees (excluding the self-employed and civil servants) were actually on short-time work in May. According to current figures from the Federal Employment Agency, however, the number of people for whom short-time work benefits are displayed is now falling month by month. After around 254,000 in July, there were only around 170,000 in August.
The fact that short-time work is often not perceived as bad news for those affected is not only shown by the current satisfaction survey results that the market research company Yougov carried out on behalf of the insurer HDI. The statements agree with the tenor of previous studies. For example, a panel survey conducted by the University of Mannheim at the height of the crisis in May found that only around a third of short-time workers were afraid of losing their jobs. And an IAB survey of parents subject to social security contributions came to the result for May that general life satisfaction among short-time workers had not decreased significantly.
“In the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, people made the experience that many companies hold on to their jobs with the help of short-time work,” says Oliver Stettes from the employer-related Institute of the German Economy in Cologne (IW), analyzing the situation. “The people now have the feeling again: The safety net holds.” Stettes sees the coalition’s agreement to extend the short-time work allowance from the current 12 to 24 months, but is critical. “It’s important to ask if a workplace has a perspective,” he says. “For some industries, the Corona crisis is absolutely justified in hoping that they can continue as before after a dry spell, especially because a nationwide lockdown is no longer likely.”
However, Stettes points out that in some places there was already a lot of pressure to change before Corona and that the crisis is only accelerating this change. This is especially the case in stationary retail. “Aside from grocery shopping, a lot has shifted to the Internet and will stay there,” predicts the researcher. “In such industries it is better if the employees get a change signal instead of keeping their employers alive for too long artificially.”