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Luxembourg presses on with work through pandemic

Luxembourg presses on with work through pandemic

by Heledd PRITCHARD 26.07.2021 From our online archive
Luxembourg saw EU's second-lowest decline in working hours when disease put millions on furlough, Eurostat says
Empty tram station along avenue John F. Kennedy in Kirchberg as thousands of people work from home
Empty tram station along avenue John F. Kennedy in Kirchberg as thousands of people work from home
Photo credit: Anouk Antony

Workers in Luxembourg kept on producing last year even as businesses around the European Union shut down suddenly and put staff on furlough due to the pandemic, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said.

Only workers in the Netherlands saw less of a cut in their hours last year, Eurostat said on Friday.  Luxembourg tied with Finland and Denmark in seeing a 4% decline in hours worked while employees in the Netherlands saw a 3% fall.

People across the EU spent an average 12% fewer hours at work in 2020 as workers went on partial unemployment or took special leave, such as to look after children who had to stay off school.

The sharpest declines were in Greece and Spain, where people worked 20% less on average than usual last year. 

Almost seven out of 10 Luxembourg employees were able to continue working remotely from home during the national coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020, a government advisory body said last fall.

Luxembourg spent €1.1bn on furlough scheme

Across the EU, 30 million people worked less than their normal hours in 2020 thanks to furlough schemes – temporary unemployment funded by governments to help keep businesses afloat when many had to close their doors because of the pandemic. The number of temporary lay-offs went from 500,000 in 2019 to four million in 2020, Eurostat said.

Luxembourg spent €1.1 billion on on its furlough scheme, which ran from March 2020 until last month, Labour Ministry spokesman Pierre Hobscheit said on Monday. 

“While during the crisis some sectors were automatically eligible [for temporary unemployment funding], companies who wish to apply now have to prove that they have suffered losses because of the situation,” Hobscheit told Luxembourg Times in an email. “A plan to keep staff in employment must also exist.”  

The funding covered 80% of a furloughed employee's wages. The ministry is waiting for companies which did not need all the aid they were granted to refund €394 million, Hobscheit said.  

A further six million people across the EU worked fewer hours for other reasons in 2020, such as family leave to look after children whose schools were closed or for training purposes, Eurostat said. 

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