Work Sharing during the Great Recession

Work Sharing during the Great Recession

New Developments and Beyond

Edited by Jon C. Messenger and Naj Ghosheh

‘Work sharing’ is a labour market instrument devised to distribute a reduced volume of work to the same (or similar) number of workers over a diminished period of working time in order to avoid redundancies. This fascinating and timely study presents the concept and history of work sharing and explores the complexities and trade-offs involved in its use as both a strategy for preserving jobs and a policy for increasing employment.

Chapter 8: Conclusion: Lessons learned from the Great Recession and implications for policy

Jon C. Messenger and Naj Ghosheh

Subjects: economics and finance, labour economics, public sector economics, social policy and sociology, labour policy


As we have seen throughout this volume, work-sharing programmes and measures played a critical role in the crisis-response strategies of many countries around the world. Although the programme designs, target populations and eligibility criteria varied considerably from country to country, the overall objective of all of these measures was the same: to preserve jobs and maintain firms which were suffering from the severe, financial-crisis-induced economic downturn that has come to be known as the ‘Great Recession’. Indeed, those countries which had work-sharing programmes that pre-dated the crisis almost uniformly expanded those measures by relaxing eligibility requirements; increasing the wage supplements for affected workers and/or subsidies for eligible firms; and extending the duration of the measures – often for an entire year or even longer. In addition, a number of countries that had never before used work sharing developed and implemented new programmes, particularly in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Thus, the Great Recession of 2008–09 and its immediate aftermath provide a wealth of experiences from which we can draw some lessons for future economic crises regarding both the optimal design of crisis work-sharing programmes as job-preservation measures and their potential effects on maintaining employment levels. In this chapter, rather than simply summarizing the individual contributions in this volume, we shall instead synthesize the work-sharing experiences that were presented and attempt to answer the question: what is the ideal programme design for a crisis work-sharing programme to preserve jobs during an economic downturn?

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