Why a record high number of employees went on sick leave in Germany in 2022

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Why a record high number of employees went on sick leave in Germany in 2022
Doctors are urging people with cold symptoms to take a test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

A record number of employees took sick leave in Germany last year, marking the highest number since 1991.


At 5.95 percent, the employee sickness rate in Germany (Krankenstand) was the highest it has been since 1991, the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) reported. 

The previous year, the sickness rate had stood at 4.42 percent, so the increase is "very significant," according to Enzo Weber of the IAB. 


Weber said this was due in particular to the sharp increase in respiratory infections and colds, many of which people experienced en masse after sickness protection measures enforced during the pandemic were steadily peeled away. But many employees also called in sick due to Covid itself.

This record level of sick leave increased the volume of work in companies and administrations in Germany last year, said Weber. It also led to public services slowing down, be it delayed or cancelled busses or daycare centres (Kitas) which closed their doors early due to a shortage of staff.

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While Kurzarbeit - or the number of people working shorter hours - decreased in 2022, the effect of this was "cancelled out by work absences due to sickness at record levels," said Weber, referring to the volume of work.

The bottom line, however, was that around 61.10 billion hours were worked, 1.4 percent more than in 2021. The number of people in employment also rose by 590,000, resulting in a record annual average of 45.57 million employed people. 

"An increase of more than half a million employed people in a crisis-ridden year is remarkable," Weber said.

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Increase in part-time employment

At two percent, the number of part-time employees rose more sharply than full-time employment, which increased by 1.3 percent. This was also due to growth in industries with a high proportion of part-time workers, such as the hospitality industry and education.

Part-time jobs also rose to a record level. For the first time, more than ten percent of employees were logging 32 hours of work a week or less. In total, 4.26 million people were employed in these jobs.

Most recently, the labour market had been comparatively stable. The number of unemployed had risen slightly in February to 2.62 million. That marked 4,000 more than in January and 192,000 more than a year ago, the Federal Employment Agency reported last week. 

The employment rate in February remained stable at 5.7 percent.


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