Polish Layoffs Soar Despite Government Support Package

This is the first of two stories on how the coronavirus crisis is affecting Poland's economy. See also: Live: Coronavirus Updates

As thousands like Stefaniak reel from the sudden loss of income, critics say the government needs to do more to help workers hit by a slump in economic activity caused by social-distancing policies imposed to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among other restrictions, malls are only allowed to keep open shops such as supermarkets or pharmacies that provide basic essentials.

While tourism and restaurants are the worst-hit sectors, companies in many parts of Europe's 11th-biggest economy are feeling the pain.

According to a survey by employers group Pracodawcy RP, as many as a third of Polish firms cut staff in March, and two-thirds are expected to introduce layoffs over the next three months.

Labour Minister Marlena Malag said she expected unemployment to top 10 per cent by the end of the year, compared with around 5.5 percent now. That would equate to around 1.4 million jobless people — although some experts say her forecast is an understatement. 

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant in front of the Centrum subway station in Warsaw, 2 April 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/PAWEL SUPERNAK

Parliament last week approved a 46-billion-euro package put forward by the government and dubbed the "anti-crisis shield". It was meant to offer support to companies and workers affected by the pandemic while also injecting more money into the health system. 

A key element is helping companies pay salaries.

The government will either contribute up to half the monthly minimum wage of 568 euros per worker or up to half an employee's pre-crisis wage if the company reduces working hours by 20 per...

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