Work-sharing has potential to save jobs, says ILO book

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Many companies cut down working hours for their employees in order to save jobs during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Such work-sharing measures also have the potential to generate more employment in the longer term, according a new ILO book launched on the sidelines of the International Labour Conference in Geneva.

The book, titled "Work Sharing During the Great Recession and Beyond" says that if work-sharing policies in times of crisis are properly designed and implemented, the result can be a win-win-win situation.

Workers keep their jobs, companies survive the crisis and governments save on the costs of unemployment.

The best known example is probably Germany's short-time work-scheme.

The programme, known as Kurzarbeit, saved an estimated 400,000 jobs at the height of the crisis in 2009.

ILO expert Jon Messenger, one of the editors of the book, says an increase in employment also can be achieved in the longer run if governments promote reductions in working hours to encourage hiring.

"Examples of these sorts of measures include reductions in the normal or legal working week. There's also collective bargaining in different industries to reduce the work week. That has also happened in Germany as a separate kind of measure and taxes and incentives such as reduced payroll taxes for companies that cut working hours. The evidence suggests firms do in fact respond to such permanent work-sharing measures and that, but I emphasize this, modest, modest employment gains can be achieved with these measures."

Patrick Moser reporting from the ILO in Geneva.

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