England is following in the footsteps The German Government by adopting a profession support scheme on Thursday. The announcement came as German commentators spoke of their confusion at the zigzag approach to tackling the coronavirus, describing a country caught in feelings of panic, disbelief and disappointment.
“Military intervention to control the coronavirus is likely,” headlined the Handelsblatt business daily this week, while an editorial at Süddeutsche Zeitung was headlined: “Johnson’s anxiety is jeopardizing his country.”
Brexit remains the dominant topic among those overseeing British affairs, but the government’s current virus-fighting policies are receiving increasing attention. For some, the two problems are intertwined. A recent TV headline said Johnson had “switched from Mr Brexit to Mr U-turn”. The weekly business magazine Wirtschaftswoche said “one of the main reasons for the ongoing coronavirus chaos” in Britain is Johnson’s decision “to take on many ministerial posts with hardline Brexit”.
“The confusion of the British public is on the rise,” wrote Thomas Kielinger, the conservative UK observer for Die Welt. “His government seems to be stumbling through the jungle of madness … and many are aware of it Boris Johnson is the wrong person to deal with an emergency. “
Kielinger called punishment for those who do not comply with the new, more stringent “cruel” measures and explain disagreements with the scientific standpoint on which government regulation is based. “Johnson has unsettled the population in a zigzag way … the consequences of his changes have been fatal: many people no longer take the rules seriously.”
“The British now look as if they are caught in a dual paradox,” Kielinger concluded – from both the Coronavirus and Brexit. There was also an interest, though not overly arrogant, that in order to overcome the economic crisis, the British government had “turned to Germany” (Wirtschaftswoche) and “imitated our model of success” (Die Welt), its Kurzarbeit (short work) system.
“Actions that were previously unheard of in the UK – apart from injecting businesses with cash, London also pays a large part of people’s salaries,” according to Wirtschaftswoche. This shows the irony that a Brexit-oriented UK is also effectively copying a model (Sure) supported by the European Union.
Short work – according to which workers could be repatriated or their hours worked significantly reduced, and that the state would take most of their lost income – has been around since the early 1900s. But it presented itself during the 2008-09 financial crisis and is widely seen as one of the main reasons for Germany’s rapid recovery, which economists have called one of the country’s most successful exports.
It has been copied in various forms, first by Switzerland and more recently by Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Italy and Japan. The variant in France is chpartial unemployment (partial employment), where workers who are laid off receive state payments. In Spain it is ERTE system, where temporarily suspended workers are paid 70% of their salary as social security.
It may still be a problem, according to Die Welt, “that the British model is less flexible and short-term than the German prototype.” He also acknowledged the concerns of some Anglo-Saxon economists, “that if too generous, it could encourage zombie companies … that only survive on state support”.
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