Subsidies that keep workers on the payrolls could be a good thing if the pandemic disruption is temporary. If the world goes back to something resembling business as usual soon, it will save employers time rehiring. It could help support consumer spending if it gives workers confidence that they will continue to have jobs.

If the world doesn’t go back to the way it was before, or doesn’t do so quickly enough, politicians might be better off allowing their labor market to go through a painful reorganization rather than shielding it.

Short-time work programs could have other benefits that are harder to quantify. Some behavioral economists think short-time work is better for workers’ mental health than the stress of being completely unemployed. In Germany, it’s thought that Kurzarbeit’s worker support could help groups feel they aren’t being left behind during the coronavirus disruption.

This story has been updated in the 5th paragraph to include comment from an economist.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.