After Christine Aschbacher’s resignation, the newly sworn Minister of Labor Martin Kocher (ÖVP) was in his new role on Monday evening ZiB2 to guest. When asked why he is a renowned expert in politics at all, Kocher said: “There are also situations in which you have to take responsibility. “Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and he spoke about the challenges ahead. It is clear what needs to be done and where the difficulties lie. Kocher’s great goal:” It’s about that to restore full employment in the long term. “
It is not entirely clear to observers where Kocher is politically located. In addition, he said that he would not have become Minister of Labor on a ticket from the ÖVP “if I did not agree with some or many thoughts”. But: “I will not always be able to and have to represent the party line.” He wants to continue to fulfill his role as a neutral expert, so the economic researcher and now former head of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS). He will say what he thinks about the labor market, economy and finance. “I will not be restricted,” said Kocher.
Short-time work: new concept until the beginning of February
In any case, Kocher does not have too much time for in-depth reflection on existing and upcoming problems. Round 500,000 people were unemployed in Austria in December, 400,000 on short-time work. Many jobs in retail are shaky. Experts – including Kocher – expect the bankruptcies to catch up after there were 30 to 35 percent fewer corporate insolvencies in 2020 than in 2019 due to massive economic aid.
Another important economic aid in pandemic times: short-time work. You have to get out of short-time work “if the situation allows,” said Kocher. The current regulation on short-time work expires at the end of March. He would like to present a new concept by the beginning of February, emphasized Kocher – without revealing the first details. In addition, the long-awaited home office regulation is to be presented “clearly before March”. “We will definitely prioritize this point,” said Kocher. So far the social partners have not been able to agree on a common concept. In Germany, a temporary solution for the pandemic has been worked out.
What there shouldn’t be soon: an unemployment benefit reform concept. Anyone who becomes unemployed receives 55 percent of their last monthly salary as unemployment benefit. The employee representatives would like to see an increase to 70 percent due to the wave of unemployment caused by the pandemic. Kocher indirectly rejected this proposal: “It is not the time to present an unemployment benefit reform concept.” After the pandemic, one could think about a sustainable and long-term solution.