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Short-time work saves jobs: experts: staff shortages are not due to layoffs

Short-time work saves jobs
Experts: Staff shortages are not due to layoffs

Contrary to earlier assumptions, mass layoffs do not seem to be the cause of the personnel crisis. The corona pandemic has led to far fewer layoffs than expected. Rather, the problem lies elsewhere – and it could take months, if not years, to resolve.

After the Corona crisis, many companies are now facing a personnel crisis. According to labor market researchers, this is not due to a mass exodus of workers in the sectors particularly affected by the pandemic. Rather, fewer jobs subject to social security contributions have been terminated across almost all sectors than before Corona, explained Enzo Weber from the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB) in Nuremberg. The shortage of staff was due to the fact that some companies hired fewer workers during the crisis. “This is a result across the industries,” says Weber.

According to an evaluation that Weber created together with his IAB colleague Christof Röttger, the number of jobs subject to social security contributions that ended during the crisis (May 2020 to April 2021) fell by around ten percent compared to the pre-crisis level. Although the number rose again in spring and summer 2021, it remained below the level before the Corona crisis until November 2021. According to the information, more recent figures were not available.

In the aviation industry, where flights across Europe are canceled or delayed precisely because of a lack of staff, according to calculations by the IAB experts, around 28 percent fewer jobs subject to social security contributions were terminated between March 2020 and December 2021 than in the pre-crisis period from March 2018 to December 2019. In the case of other services it was around 11 percent less for aviation and almost 60 percent less for cargo handling.

Employees refrained from layoffs

The explanation of the experts: During the crisis, many employers made use of short-time work and were thus able to avoid layoffs. Many also tried to keep their people because there was a shortage of staff, Weber said. And employees would also have refrained from layoffs because of the poor prospects on the job market.

The Federal Employment Agency also confirms this for the catering trade, where high fluctuations are otherwise typical. During the pandemic, the risk of a professional reorientation was too great for many employees there, a spokeswoman said. At the same time, however, there were significantly fewer newcomers from other professional fields or newcomers, for example after completing an apprenticeship or immigrating. However, according to the Federal Agency, people who lost their jobs during the crisis have looked for employment in other sectors. According to a new study by the Institute of German Economics, hotels and restaurants in particular lost many employees who switched to retail, transport and logistics.

According to figures from the Federal Employment Agency, there was a net job loss of around 47,000 people in the catering trade in the first Corona year. In the aviation industry, which includes airlines, airport operations and other air traffic services, the Federal Agency registered 104,000 employees subject to social security contributions at the end of 2021 – 13 percent fewer than two years earlier.

The demand for personnel in the aviation professions also collapsed. But this demand is now picking up again, according to the Federal Agency. The spokeswoman for the Federal Agency explained that the number of unemployed in the aviation professions in June 2022 was similar or even lower than the number of job offers. This means that the potential available from the unemployed is very scarce because not every job is reported to the employment agencies.

“All industries affected by corona now have the same problem. They all want to cover their pent-up demand at the same time and at short notice,” said Weber. But the job market can’t afford it that quickly. He therefore assumes that the situation will only improve step by step and that normalization will not be achieved until next year – provided that there is no violent corona wave again in autumn.

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