Germany to extend short working hours scheme

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The German cabinet approved on Wednesday a 15-month extension of its "Kurzarbeit" ("short-time work") programme, a scheme credited with keeping a lid on unemployment in Europe's biggest economy.

The deadline for firms to apply for the scheme will be extended until March 31, 2012, Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters. Previously it had been due to expire at the end of 2010.

"Kurzarbeit" allows firms hit by the global slowdown to slash their overheads by cutting workers' hours. Government money means that employees still get paid most of their salaries for a set period.

More than a million workers have been covered by the scheme, costing taxpayers some five billion euros (6.8 billion dollars) last year and a projected three billion euros in 2010.

© 2010 AFP

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