Companies should switch from furlough to reduced working hours
In an interview for the STA, which is to be released in full on Thursday, Cigler Kralj said the corona crisis had only made clearer his priorities for the department of labour, family, social affairs and equal opportunities, above all a flexible labour market.
The measures introduced by the government helped save 300,000 jobs during the epidemic lockdown. "Only" 14,000 people lost jobs and "in mid-May already this trend stopped and ever since the number of the unemployed has been dropping slowly but steadily."
Nonetheless, he understands the concern of many players come autumn. The projections for the labour market are being discussed by the ministry, the government and the task force led by economist Matej Lahovnik, as well as New Slovenia (NSi), the party he belongs to, and social partners.
"Most of these players expect that autumn will be tough," the minister said. When asked whether the government would extend by another month the furlough subsidies, the most popular measure for businesses, Cigler Kralj said this was being decided at the moment.
He believes it would be best for most companies to switch to reduced working hours subsidies. So far the Employment Agency has received a total of about 7,800 requests for some 40,750 workers, which Cigler Kralj says was slightly fewer than expected.
"But more employers would likely have opted for this if they had not had the possibility of furlough subsidies," the minister said. The government is, however, reluctant to leave high and dry sectors which are unable to relaunch still, including the conference industry.
Under Slovenian legislation, the government cannot leave this measure available only to certain sectors. If extended, it must remain accessible to all companies.
So far nearly EUR 260 million have been paid out in furlough subsidies, while the government estimated the value of the measure at EUR 700 million in the stability programme in April. At the moment the ministry expects the furlough and reduced hours subsidies to reach a total of EUR 700 million from the EU Sure scheme.
On Tuesday, Cigler Kralj attended a session of the executive board of the Chamber of Small Business (OZS), with representatives calling on him to extend the furlough funds.
OZS president Branko Meh praised the measures designed by the government to help the economy overcome the coronavirus crisis, but also called for an extension of the furlough scheme and for some form of universal income for the self-employed whose business has dropped 50%.
Cigler Kralj said that under the current legislation the furlough scheme could only be extended until the end of September, also telling the board that 25,000 were on furlough at the moment, roughly the same as in July.