Zooming in specifically on labour market measures, the extended access to unemployment benefits has been introduced by numerous countries across Europe including Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, but also by certain States in India.
Another instrument being implemented in a wide range of EU Countries as well as in Switzerland, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Turkey are short-time work schemes whereby governments temporarily subsidise parts of the wages of those workers whose employers apply for the scheme.
The advantage of these programmes is that workers do not lose their income and they remain employed. Meanwhile, companies do not lose workers with valuable skills, which should help them recover faster after the crisis. While most European countries have similar schemes in place, the level of support ranges from 40% in Poland up to 70% in Belgium, between 75% and 90% in Denmark and between 84% and 100% in France.
On the flip side, however, many of these measures are not without their problems. First, they are ad hoc and not always part of a coordinated package. Some countries have announced measures and then added to them as gaps were pointed out.
One of such shortcomings is the fact that in many countries, benefits offered by the authorities may not reach everyone who needs them. This is too often the case for workers classified as agency workers or self-employed.
Furthermore, for some of them, support (if any at all) might just come too late as the decrease or loss of a job and the resulting drop or loss in income are too often radical and imminent.
Considering the New Social Contract
Some of the government responses to the pandemic are clearly extraordinary measures never seen before, or at least not on this scale. As is, they can be seen as addressing the gaps in the current social contract that have become evident over the past years. Similarly, the COVID-19 crisis has made it abundantly clear that paid sick-leave has an important function as a public health measure that also helps to protect business continuity.