Despite the measures in place at the moment, people need to carry on working as far as possible to keep the economy turning, according to one of the government’s senior advisers.
Piet Vanthemsche is the former head of the Flemish farmers’ union Boerenbond, and now heads the government’s Economic Risk Management Group (ERMG)., together with Pierre Wunsch, governor of the National Bank.
“People are being confronted with a series of measures to protect them against the [coronavirus], which is a problem for some,” he told RTBF Radio 1. “On the other hand, we want to encourage people to remain at work.”
He granted that the two aims can be contradictory.
“But there are clear agreements: anyone who can do so must work from home. Where that’s not possible, the employer has to take whatever precautions are required to protect employees.”
And he called for positive incentives to keep people working, including the gratitude of the authorities and public that they go on working to help keep the economy turning over. Specifically, he singled out lorry drivers and workers in industrial sectors, the pharmaceutical and food industries.
“Food in the shops, medication at the pharmacist’s, energy delivered to homes and health care workers who keep working: that is important for the rest of the economy, and for our daily lives,” he said.
However he recognised the need for temporary unemployment provision, which allows workers whose companies are in difficulties to claim benefits until the problem is resolved.
“There are companies that cannot go on working because demand has fallen away,” he said. “Temporary unemployment is important to ensure that people do not lose their jobs altogether.”