Labour Market in the COVID-19 Crisis

WIFO Keynote by Helmut Mahringer at a Summit Meeting
At a top-level meeting organised by the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK) and the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB) on 15 September 2020 concerning the labour market in the COVID-19 crisis between the federal government members Christine Aschbacher, Margarete Schramböck, Rudolf Anschober and the heads of the social partners Renate Anderl, Wolfgang Katzian and Harald Mahrer, WIFO economist Helmut Mahringer gave a keynote speech.

He pointed out the extraordinary strain on the labour market caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Although the loss of employment and the increase in unemployment were strongly dampened by political countermeasures, they were unprecedented in their extent in the recent past.

In addition, he emphasised the danger of unemployment becoming permanent due to a labour market situation that is strained over the long term. This was already apparent in light of the significant increase in unemployment among older people and the unemployed with health problems and among the unemployed without any further educational qualifications. In addition, by mid-2020, half of the increase in unemployment is due to the fact that the opportunities of unemployed people who were already without employment before the COVID-19 crisis have worsened.

In the short term, the consequences of the crisis can be further mitigated, in particular by continuing short-time work in line with the crisis situation and by securing sufficient training places for apprentices. "A viable element of a labour market package could be a qualification offensive focusing on intensive training", said Mahringer. Employment measures proved to be an effective instrument, especially for older unemployed people and those with health problems. These programs could be implemented in both the private and public sectors.

"For all these measures, differentiated impact analyses are available, which can be taken into account in planning. These also show that sufficient manpower at the Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) is an essential prerequisite for the effective implementation of these measures and successful mediation on the labour market", explained Mahringer, who in this context also underscored the important role of preventive measures for example in securing employment, especially for older and health-impaired people, in reconciling work and family life and in ensuring educational success and integration.

Further information and a video recording of the entire summit meeting can be found here (in German).