We have three economic forecasts that forecast economic growth of around five percent for 2021. This should reduce unemployment. But there is one uncertainty factor: we must not forget that we currently have half a million people on short-time work. The economy can also grow so significantly because there is less short-time work, which is why no more workers are hired. Nevertheless, I expect a decline in unemployment for the full year 2021. The numbers can only be reliably assessed from the end of May 2021 and it will also depend on when and whether there will be a vaccination.
A huge wave of bankruptcies is feared in the coming year. Do you really believe that the situation on the labor market will improve?
Some small businesses in the event and tourism industry will certainly run out of air in 2021. That sounds cynical now, but the infrastructure in tourism remains in place even if there is bankruptcy. That means, as soon as the vaccination is on the market, there can be an increase in jobs again.
When do you expect that the unemployment figure in Austria will be back to the level it was before the crisis?
This will take a while. We have cut about a third of the unemployment that arose in March and April. The projected decline in unemployment for next year is in the range of 20,000 to 30,000. According to this plan, it will then take another two years – so not until 2023 – until we are back to the level before the Corona crisis. But forecasts are difficult even in safe times. In uncertain times they are even more difficult.
The federal government is investing 700 million euros in qualifying the unemployed. Will that be enough to lower record unemployment?
This is a very large package and increases the budget of the Public Employment Service by around 50 percent. What I’m saying now may sound surprising at first: But you have to be able to spend this sum first.
Because this training potential does not currently exist on the market. It is also not that easy to retrain people. Because you can’t turn everyone who worked in tourism into a caregiver now. But we will try and develop something. For example, we will focus heavily on the topic of “women in technology”. This is a luxury program because we cover all costs up to the university of applied sciences. There are women who become computer scientists or who actually study. The AMS then also pays the cost of living during the training. We even have a small program of our own with the ÖBB for female train drivers. There are women who, with our help, realize at the age of 45 that they have always wanted to do technical training.
The SPÖ and the trade union are demanding an increase in unemployment benefits from 55 percent to 70 percent of the net replacement rate. Does that promote the social hammock?
I have already spoken out several times that there should be higher unemployment benefits in the first three months and then a step. The net replacement rate should be at least 65 percent so that the level is large enough. Most people find a job again in the first three months anyway. But if not, the lower unemployment benefit supports greater flexibility when looking for a job.
The required 70 percent is too high, although many were unemployed through the crisis through no fault of their own?
If you increase the unemployment benefit in general, then you also have to consider the possibility that you can now earn a small amount in addition to the unemployment benefit. In some cases, this combination – higher unemployment benefits plus marginal job – could result in some people receiving more money at the end of the month than with full-time employment. That would solidify unemployment. People would be stupid if they went to work. In the event of an increase in unemployment benefit, additional earnings would have to be restricted.
It is reported from London that the office towers are empty because people want to stay in the home office. Will the trend prevail or will the longing for social contacts end the home office?
The prejudice “nothing is done at home” has been invalidated by Corona. In some cases, productivity was even higher because there were no daily travel times or because there is more peace and quiet in one’s own four walls. Home office has become established, there will be a mix in the future. To do this, however, the costs for workplace equipment will have to be regulated. However, with women you have to say: doing homeschooling in addition to home office was a nightmare. They were the losers of the lockdown.
Were the women the losers during the lockdown because of the multiple burden or are they still now?
The unemployment rate is currently higher for women than for men. Also because tourism is suffering because of the crisis. How many women manage to return to work or stay longer at home with the children, for example because of the poorer chances, remains to be seen. It is too early for this analysis.