The Economic Crisis as a Trigger of Convergence? Short-time work in Italy, Germany and Austria
In all European countries, emergency policy measures have been introduced in order to counteract the employment consequences of the economic crisis. In the context of variously composed anticrisis packages, many European countries have used Short-Time Work (STW) schemes, that is measures to subsidize a temporary reduction in working time intended to maintain an employment relationship. Countries which already had STW schemes, such as Kurzarbeit in Germany and Austria and the Cassa Integrazione Guadagni (CIG) in Italy, have loosened the eligibility requirements and extended their maximum duration. This paper focuses on the issue whether the economic crisis has spurred any convergence in the use of STW in these three social-insurance countries - Austria, Germany and Italy - or whether policy change has rather occurred in a path-dependent fashion. In order to do so, the paper also adopts a systemic approach, focusing on relationships of complementarity or functional substitution and equivalence among the various schemes comprising income maintenance systems to tackle the risks of partial or total unemployment. In addition to shedding light on a rather under-researched province of contemporary welfare states such as STW, this article also aims to contribute to the debate on the analytical levels in the study of social policy by showing the relevance and potential of adopting an intermediate level of analysis between a regime-centred and a programme-centred approach.
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