Europe – Temporary workers disproportionately impacted by pandemic, research finds – Staffing Industry Analysts

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26 October 2021

While employment fell sharply early in the pandemic in the EU, temporary workers were disproportionately affected by the crisis, accounting for over three-quarters of net job losses in the EU27 during 2020, according to a report from Eurofound and the European Commission.

The report found that while employment-protection and income-support measures were extended to cover, for example, some self-employed and temporary workers, such support was crisis-contingent and temporary.

According to the report, in the EU, in 2020, temporary workers’ numbers shrank by 5% year on year in Q1 (1.2 million jobs), 16% in Q2 (4.2 million jobs), 12% in Q3 (3.1 million jobs) and 10% in Q4 (2.5 million jobs).

Overall, the loss of temporary contracts in 2020 accounted for 85% of the decline in aggregate EU employment.

“While the non-renewal of temporary contracts is a well-documented reaction to economic crises, the scale of the job loss for temporary workers in 2020 was unprecedented,” the report stated. “The loss in temporary employment was driven by net declines in several countries with large labour forces.”

Except for Denmark, all member states experienced a decline in temporary employment between 2019 and 2020. Five – France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain – accounted for 60% of total losses in temporary employment in the EU in 2020.

Spain shed a net one million temporary jobs in the second quarter of 2020 and another million in the two subsequent quarters. Poland and Italy each lost 0.4 million temporary contracts or more in the last three quarters of 2020, while France lost half a million in Q2 and another half a million in the last two quarters of 2020. Smaller countries also registered sharp falls in temporary employment. On average, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia shed one-fifth of their temporary employment in 2020.

In all member states except Austria, Estonia, Lithuania and Malta, relative employment declines have been substantially higher for temporary than for permanent employees.

Compared to the relative change in temporary employment for the EU27 (-12%), that of the member states ranges from -1.6% in Estonia to -31% in Slovakia. At the same time, permanent employment declined in relative terms by less than 1% in France, Greece, Italy, Slovakia and Sweden, compared to more than 3% in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

In contrast, employment levels for workers on permanent contracts and for the self-employed remained relatively stable in 2020.

Meanwhile, workers on permanent contracts and the self-employed registered larger declines in the number of hours worked than workers on temporary contracts.

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