Because the economy is recovering, fewer Germans are afraid of losing their jobs than in winter. However, because of the Corona crisis, many are concerned about social cohesion, a survey by the Institute of Economic and Social Sciences (WSI) shows. Millions of people cannot afford a vacation trip. “The hoped-for summer of liberation is missing for many,” said WSI director Bettina Kohlrausch.
Since the start of the pandemic, the union-affiliated institute has regularly asked workers how they are doing. This shows some improvement. While 40 percent felt overwhelmed by the overall situation in January, it was only a good quarter in July. This is also due to the fact that parents have been hit hard by the lack of home child care and education in the winter. Since the reopening of stores and restaurants, the fear of losing one’s job has also diminished. Most of those questioned, however, fear that social cohesion will crumble.
35 million Europeans cannot afford a vacation
This corresponds to the situation during the holiday period. Almost 4.5 million Germans do not have the money to go on vacation. This is the result of data from the EU statistical authority, which the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) assessed. As a result, the situation in other EU countries is even worse. In total, 35 million Europeans cannot afford to travel even for a week. It affects more than one in two people at risk of poverty who have less than 60 percent of the median income. The distance to the highest paid citizens has increased in more than half of the Member States in a decade.
“This increase shows that the fruits of growth have not been shared fairly,” said ETUC General Secretary Esther Lynch. “A vacation trip doesn’t have to become a luxury.” Millions of workers could not leave because they did not earn enough. The umbrella organization is trying to persuade EU governments and parliament to set the state’s minimum wage at at least 60% of the country’s median wage. This would mean a salary increase for 24 million Europeans. In Germany, the minimum wage is expected to drop from less than ten euros an hour today to around twelve euros an hour. This is also what the Greens, the SPD and the Left are demanding in their electoral manifestos.
The WSI Institute survey shows that most employees fear more inequality due to the pandemic. “A lot of people clearly record exactly what works and what does not in the country”, analyzes Bettina Kohlrausch. On the one hand, Germany is emerging from the crisis in terms of economic development or vaccination rates. A functioning social and health system creates stability. On the other hand, workers would see the emergence of known or new inequalities.
Two-thirds of women say they mostly care for children
For example, people who were worse off economically before the Corona crisis lost more income than others during the pandemic. This affected more than half of those whose households had less than 2,000 euros net per month before the pandemic. Other studies show that during the pandemic a disproportionate number of temporary jobs and positions for less skilled people were lost. And for those who earn little, it is rapidly becoming scarce, for example with shorter working hours, despite the partial unemployment benefit.
Citizens are increasingly saying that the pandemic has exposed gaps in the social security system. WSI Director Kohlrausch sees this as one of the reasons why a majority of employees surveyed are now more unhappy with the political handling of the crisis. The proportion has increased since 2020. “The security mechanisms of the welfare state must not be weakened because of the pandemic, for example on the grounds that there is no more money,” warns Kohlrausch.
There is a growing imbalance between parents. In July, two-thirds of women said they were primarily responsible for childcare. The value has never been higher since the start of the pandemic. One in seven mothers therefore reduced their working hours and earned less.
Responses to vaccination are instructive. Only one in three unvaccinated people resolutely reject Corona-Piks, mainly because they consider the virus to be less dangerous than experts have suggested. Many people want to be vaccinated, especially in households whose net income is less than 2,000 euros. This suggests that incentives and offers with low thresholds can persuade many citizens to get vaccinated.