Research in the time of COVID-19

Under the heading “Research in the time of Covid-19” we publish a range of blogs connecting our evidence, thoughts, new ideas, hopes and fears to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic for society, social research, labour markets, social and health policies.

The impact of COVID-19 on the posting of workers and their workplace safety


The posting of workers describes a process by which companies and temporary work agencies send employees from one EU Member State to another to provide a service in that country for a specific period of time based on dedicated EU Directives. Meanwhile, posted employees remain covered by and pay contributions to the social security institutions of their home country.

Posting has seen a sustained increase within the EU over the past decade, with the number of posted workers rising from approximately 1 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2018. Preliminary findings of our Con3Post project indicate that there has also developed a trend of posting third-country nationals – that is, the posting of non-EU nationals through a company based in one EU Member State to work in another EU Member State – in recent years. One example for this is the posting of construction workers from Western Balkan countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo via Slovenia to Austria and other EU countries.

Figure 1: Postings to Austria (Number of submitted ZKO3 forms)

Source: Data provided by the Austrian Financial Police


Healthy surveillance - happy data sharing!


Readers of this essay are invited to a quiz: try to spot the difference between reality and dystopia!

“Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to this meeting that we are starting today with a new ritual. As you know, registration with the COVID-19 app is a prerequisite for attending this meeting. Now I ask you for the corresponding ‘electronic handshake’. At the same time, I have to inform you that you are obliged to report immediately if you receive a health warning during our session. In this case the session will be terminated.”


Policing the healthy and the unhealthy


Research projects at the European Centre demonstrate the significance of inter-disciplinary thinking particularly in times of the worldwide Covid-19 crisis. In fact, what is currently designated as a “health crisis” expands beyond medicine and calls for expertise in several other disciplines of the scientific arena such as economics, political science, legal studies, information technology, sociology and philosophy. Hence, expertise in health economics, social welfare politics, law enforcement, technology assessment and ethics is needed to gauge the social consequences in this situation. In the following contribution, I would like to present findings from European Centre’s research together with fresh ideas to underline this inter-disciplinary approach.


Dismantling health and social care systems kills


Research carried out by the European Centre had already shown pervasive inequalities in access to care as well as in the coverage of health insurance and potential remedies. The Covid-19 crisis brings the evidence to the headlines of the news that social inequalities and the dismantling of health and social welfare systems are killing people. The current crisis also shows that health and social care are not a ‘product’ which can be produced low-cost and provided to those with sufficiently large incomes only.

Yet, inequalities persist. While many of us continue to work in secure home offices, a great number of people have to keep working to provide our basic necessities including water, energy supply, waste collection, pharmaceuticals, groceries, and health care. Older people and persons with disabilities, in particular those living in isolation or in care homes, have complex care and support needs and were already disadvantaged before the pandemic, now they are additionally confronted with triage mechanisms and even total neglect as social services are suspended. Professionals in health and social care have struggled with working conditions already before the crisis. Now they are facing Covid-19 and a high risk exposure to the disease while many still try to maintain operating levels of standard care services.

Number of hospital beds per 100,000 inhabitants, 2005-2017