Mhe lack of labor is increasing the variety of ideas about what can be done to counteract the new shortage on the labor market: the traffic light coalition is working on a reform of immigration law to attract more skilled workers from abroad. Former SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel has drawn attention to himself with his plea for a 42-hour week: the idea is that if domestic workers were to work longer again, that could also alleviate the shortage to some extent.
A current initiative by the Economic Council of the CDU, which deals primarily with the role of the welfare state in this context, aims in a similar direction. In short: if labor is scarce, then social policy should all the less be allowed to remain in the old patterns of managing underemployment, which tend to lay off labor rather than mobilize it. Wolfgang Steiger, General Secretary of the CDU-affiliated entrepreneurs’ association, sees examples of undesirable developments in the promotion of short-time work and the planned reform of the basic security system Hartz IV towards a new “citizen’s allowance”.
“We will not solve the skilled labor problem with immigration alone”
“It is long overdue to exit the expensive Corona special rules for short-time work benefits as quickly as possible,” warns Steiger. “Under no circumstances may these be extended again beyond the end of September,” he told the FAZ. And justifies this as follows: After the Corona crisis, employees “should not be kept in apparently hardly sustainable jobs, while other employers are desperately looking for workers” – all the more more if these employers then also have to pay contributions and taxes “for the labor market policy shutdown premium, short-time work allowance”.
Until the middle of the year, the extensive special Corona rules still applied to a large extent, such as the increased wage replacement of up to 87 percent of the lost net earnings in the case of short-time work; there is also an option for companies to have up to 100 percent of the social security contributions due for short-time work reimbursed by the state. The Ifo Institute had identified 277,000 short-time workers for May; According to estimates, the number has recently fallen significantly. However, Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) had extended some special rules that facilitate access to short-time work until the end of September.
“The return of the short-time allowance reduces the additional wage costs and thus creates new employment impulses,” emphasizes Steiger. “Under no circumstances should new reasons such as the Ukraine war be put forward as a justification for the extension of the extraordinarily lavish short-time work regulations.” There have traditionally been different views in the economy as to how urgent this exit is. Since the industry is burdened by electrification and other consequences of energy policy in addition to all crises, there are also conflicting interests.
The new major problem of staff shortages is also behind the considerations of longer weekly working hours for employees, which ex-SPD leader Gabriel has now hired, inspired by demands from Industry President Sigfried Russwurm for a 42-hour week: “Wouldn’t we people rather want more again earn by working a little longer? That’s a question that needs to be clarified in collective bargaining, because we won’t solve the skilled labor problem with immigration alone,” Gabriel told “Bild am Sonntag”.