Bernhard Ebbinghaus, Lukas Lehner
Cui bono – business or labour? Job retention policies during the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe

Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research, 2022: 28, issue 1, pp. 47–64
ISSN: 1024-2589 (print), 1996-7284 (online)

Europe has been faced with multiple challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the problem of how to secure jobs and earnings. In our comparative analysis, we explore to what degree European welfare states were capable of responding to this crisis by stabilising employment and workers’ incomes. While short-time work was a policy tool already partly used in the 2008/2009 Great Recession, job retention policies were further expanded or newly introduced across Europe in 2020 in the wake of the pandemic. However, cross-national variations persist in the way in which these schemes were designed and implemented across European welfare states, aiming more or less to hoard labour and thereby avoid mass dismissals throughout the employment crisis. We distinguish between business support and labour support logics in explaining the variation in job retention policies across Europe. Our finding is that Continental, Mediterranean and liberal welfare states did more to foster labour hoarding using short-time work than Nordic or Central and Eastern European countries.