A poster calling on more hand washing instead of purchasing masks is seen at a pharmacy in Berlin, capital of Germany, March 3, 2020. Germany's confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased to 188 on Tuesday from 150 a day earlier, according to Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)
A poster calling on more hand washing instead of purchasing masks is seen at a pharmacy in Berlin, capital of Germany, March 3, 2020. Germany's confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased to 188 on Tuesday from 150 a day earlier, according to Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)

dpa/GNA – The number of people enrolled in Germany’s furlough scheme during the coronavirus crisis, known as short-time work, shrank slightly at the end of last year, according to the Munich-based ifo research institute.

Based on reports from around 7,000 companies as part of its monthly business survey, the ifo said some 1.95 million workers were signed up to the state-funded programme in December, down from 1.98 in November.

“But even if it looks on the surface like things are stabilizing, greater shifts are happening behind the scenes: yes, short-time work is down in manufacturing, in all of its economic sectors. But it increased in retail and hospitality, which the current lockdown has hit especially hard,” ifo labour market expert Sebastian Link said.

In retail, the number of furloughed workers soared to 150,000 in December, or 6.1 per cent of employees subject to social insurance contributions, the ifo said. In November, the number stood as 97,000, or 3.9 per cent.

In hospitality, as many as 414,000 employees were on short-time work (39 per cent), compared with 374,000 (35.3 per cent) in November.

Germany’s hotels, restaurants, bars and non-essential shops have been impacted for months by restrictions designed to curb coronavirus infections. Under a lockdown initiated in mid-December, public and cultural life has been largely shut down.

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