Ob Restaurateurs, retailers or cultural workers: The Corona crisis hit the four million self-employed people in Germany hard. In the spring of last year, some of them suffered substantial losses in turnover and income – and many of them found the emergency aid from the federal government to be inadequate. An as yet unpublished study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) is now looking into the question of what consequences this had. The result: Much more self-employed people than in previous years – and women in particular – gave up during the crisis.
The analysis is based on data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), a large long-term household survey, and a special Corona survey. It shows that the employment relationships were quite stable until the outbreak of the pandemic: In 2019, 85 percent of the self-employed from the previous year were still self-employed. However, this picture changes with the onset of the Corona crisis.
In 2020, only 74 percent of the self-employed from the previous year were still self-employed – almost three quarters. 11 percent switched to employment subject to social security contributions. 15 percent gave up self-employment without taking up employment subject to social security contributions. In principle, this development continued at the beginning of 2021, but with clear gender differences: 80 percent of the self-employed men at the beginning of the pandemic were still in this form of employment, but only 68 percent of the women, who make up a third of all self-employed.
DIW researcher Alexander Kritos sees a clear reason for this. “It’s not because women give up faster or are less survivable,” he told the FAZ. “Women simply work more often in industries such as the hospitality, hotel or retail sectors, which were particularly hard hit by the containment measures.” show with colleagues in an earlier analysis that self-employed women recorded severe income losses more often than men in spring 2020 and then also showed symptoms of depression and anxiety significantly more often.
For the researcher, the data show that the federal government did not help self-employed people in the Corona crisis consistently enough. Above all, many self-employed individuals did not benefit from the emergency aid because they hardly have any fixed professional costs – but the grants were only intended for this. That only changed with the “restart aid”, a one-off payment of 7500 euros. “I’m afraid that help came too late,” says Kritos. “The government should have given earlier, faster and more binding help.” The former chairman of the Expert Council, Lars Feld, had also criticized the German aid as “not systematic”. The result: According to the Federal Employment Agency, 132,000 self-employed people applied for Hartz IV basic security between April 2020 and June 2021.