The government is likely to extend until September the ban on layoffs at businesses that will participate in the sixth phase of the cheap state loans program; the next “Deposit To Be Returned” stage is scheduled for March.
That may be the final government action for the protection of employment in the context of support measures amid the pandemic. So far the measures have worked rather well for one of the areas most vulnerable to the consequences of the pandemic.
Some 740,000 employees are under protected status up to end-March in the context of the fourth phase of the program, while Finance Ministry data show that the fifth phase, which has just stopped receiving applications, will extend protection to most of them until the end of June.
At the same time, the businesses that placed workers on furlough have committed to keeping them on payroll for at least as long as their contract suspension lasts, after its conclusion.
The gradual withdrawal of the support measures, expected – pandemic permitting – around April, is causing concern in the Finance Ministry, which does not want to see a series of company shutdowns and a new wave of jobless workers. These fears mainly concern the sectors of retail commerce and tourism, and not manufacturing, ministry officials say. For 2021 the budget’s unemployment reduction target is for a rate of 16%, from an estimated 16.9% in 2020.
A series of new interventions will apply in the coming months to support the transition process from the current status of almost complete protection to future normality, without any losses in employment.
According to ministry sources, the interventions being planned include a subsidy for the fixed expenditure of companies that saw their turnover slump last year, in line with the new temporary framework of the European Union on state support. Sources add that this new tool will be targeted to businesses at risk of closure and without support from the cheap state loans.
An extensive training program is also being planned, to be financed by the European resources. Other interventions include the “Gefyra 2” corporate loan tranche subsidy program and a plan for creating 100,000 jobs with six-month social security coverage by the state.