What explains variation in governments’ policy choices to protect jobs and incomes at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in Western Europe? Departing from existing literature that emphasises path-dependency, this article proposes a dynamic model of policy-making in a major emergency. Building on the idea that governments face a trade-off between targeting and reversibility, the article develops a framework that accounts for both continuity and change in governments’ policies to protect jobs and incomes during the pandemic. Introducing a four-fold typology of ideal-typical policy responses (strong reinforcement, weak reinforcement, over-provision and under-provision), it is argued that the interaction between institutional legacies and political power of the beneficiaries of a given policy determines the response that governments opt for. Case studies of three policy areas (short-time work; unemployment insurance and social assistance) across the five largest Western European countries (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom) support the proposed theoretical framework.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

Cite as

Clegg, D., Durazzi, N., Heins, E. & Robertson, E. 2023, 'Policy, power and pandemic: Varieties of job and income protection responses to Covid-19 in Western Europe', Journal of European Public Policy. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2023.2242907

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Last updated: 10 August 2023
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