key topic

How effective are job subsidies?

Job subsidies, or wage subsidies, are payments made by governments to employers, in order to achieve particular policy objectives.

  • Should the earned income tax credit rise for childless adults?

    The earned income tax credit raises income and work incentives among low-income parents but little goes to adults without children

    Harry J. Holzer, September 2015
    The earned income tax credit provides important benefits to low-income families with children in the US. At an annual cost of about $60 billion, it increases the incomes of such families while encouraging parents to work more by subsidizing their incomes. But low-income adults without children and non-custodial parents receive only very low payments under the program, providing them with little income benefits or work incentives. Many of these adults are low-income young men whose wages and employment rates have been declining for years and who might benefit substantially from expanded eligibility for the earned income tax credit.
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  • The effects of wage subsidies for older workers

    Wage subsidies to encourage employers to hire older workers are often ineffective

    Bernhard Boockmann, September 2015
    Population aging in many developed countries has motivated some governments to provide wage subsidies to employers for hiring or retaining older workers. The subsidies are intended to compensate for the gap between the pay and productivity of older workers, which may discourage their hiring. A number of empirical studies have investigated how wage subsidies influence employers’ hiring and employment decisions and whether the subsidies are likely to be efficient. To which groups subsidies should be targeted and how the wage subsidy programs interact with incentives for early retirement are open questions.
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  • Can hiring subsidies benefit the unemployed?

    Hiring subsidies can be a very cost-effective way of helping the unemployed, but only when they are carefully targeted

    Alessio J. G. Brown, June 2015
    Long-term unemployment can lead to skill attrition and have detrimental effects on future employment prospects, particularly following periods of economic crises when employment growth is slow and cannot accommodate high levels of unemployment. Addressing this problem requires the use of active labor market policies targeted at the unemployed. In this context, hiring subsidies can provide temporary incentives for firms to hire unemployed workers and, when sensibly targeted, are a very cost-effective and efficient means of reducing unemployment, during both periods of economic stability and recovery.
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  • The minimum wage versus the earned income tax credit for reducing poverty

    Enhancing the earned income tax credit would do more to reduce poverty, at less cost, than increasing the minimum wage

    Minimum wage increases are not an effective mechanism for reducing poverty. And there is little causal evidence that they do so. Most workers who gain from minimum wage increases do not live in poor (or near-poor) families, while some who do live in poor families lose their job as a result of such increases. The earned income tax credit is an effective way to reduce poverty. It raises only the after-tax wage rates of workers in low- and moderate-income families, its tax credit increases with the number of dependent children, and evidence shows that it increases labor force participation and employment in these families.
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