The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the
world. A wide range of measures have been taken to save lives and protect
health systems from being overburdened. Millions of people were unable to go
out to work. The consequences are being felt on the labour market.
According to the Employment Outlook 2020
published in July 2020 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), up to ten times fewer hours were worked in some countries
than in the first months of the financial crisis in 2008. The unemployment rate
in the OECD area rose by an unprecedented 3.0 per cent to 8.5 per cent in April
- the highest level in the last ten years.
In its study, the OECD assumes that
unemployment in the OECD countries will probably reach almost ten percent by
2020 (it was 5.3 per cent end of 2019). Should the feared second wave occur,
the figure could rise to as much as twelve per cent. The labour market is not
expected to recover before 2021.
It is natural to fear that the health and
employment crisis would turn into a social crisis and that existing social
inequalities would widen. Women, young people and low earners are particularly
How can a social crisis be counteracted?
The study recommends that the economic
stimulus packages introduced in most countries at the beginning of the pandemic
may have to be adjusted to support those, who need help most urgently. Policies
should provide incentives and support for companies hiring new workers. Another
aspect is aid for the self-employed, who should be appropriately targeted.
In the medium term, it is recommended to close
the structural gaps in social security. Investment in vocational training and
the promotion of social dialogue, in particular with the social partners,
should be encouraged. Furthermore, social security for self-employed and
atypically employed persons should be regulated.
The EU has a lot of relevant items on its agenda
even now: Better protection of workers should actually be an EU priority this
year and a summit should be held on this issue. As a result of COVID-19, this
is likely to be postponed until next year.
The European Commission launched the youth
initiative "Promoting Youth Employment: Entry of the up-and-coming
generation into Professional Life" in July. This is intended to strengthen
the Youth Guarantee, which was launched in 2013. The Commission urged the
Member States to actively promote the employment for young people by using the
resources available. At least 22 billion euros should be spent for this
purpose. It is now up to the Member States to prioritise these investments.
During Germany's EU Council Presidency,
too, the topics of shaping the future of work through retraining and advanced
training and fair working conditions for platform employees are to be promoted.
The coming months and years will show
whether and how successful the measures will be.