COVID-19 Pandemic: Crisis Measures Highlight Vulnerability of Europe's Labour Market | Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik - MPISOC

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07.06.2021 / Sozialrecht EN

COVID-19 Pandemic: Crisis Measures Highlight Vulnerability of Europe's Labour Market

In order to mitigate the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments all over Europe have introduced extensive labour market and social policy measures. In response, the question has been raised in public and scholarly debate in how far these crisis measures reflected a new understanding of the welfare state’s responsibility towards the individual, and to what extent they have changed the configurations of the welfare state. A group of legal researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich investigated precisely these questions and concludes that:

  • the measures did not change the underlying structures of welfare systems, but highlighted the specific vulnerabilities of large segments of Europe’s labour markets;
  • pre-existing vulnerabilities will largely persist beyond the crisis;
  • despite their unprecedented scope, the measures have often placed specific conditions on the nature of the business or income of the individual;
  • the support measures have seen delayed rollouts, leaving many individuals without protection;
  • the priority of the overall crisis response has been on ‘standard workers’ in all countries examined;
  • some measures at first sight appeared to reflect a changed role of the welfare state, in particular compensation measures. However, the social compensation payments seen during the crisis are, in fact, an essential component of welfare states, and were part of its legal and normative basis already before the pandemic.

The results of the study were just published open access under the title "Protecting livelihoods in the COVID-19 crisis: A comparative analysis of European labour market and social policies" in the journal Global Social Policy. Germany, France, Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom had been chosen as countries of investigation as they represent a variety of Western European welfare state and labour market models.