key topic

Unemployment insurance

Unemployment insurance, also referred to as unemployment benefits, is welfare paid by governments to people out of work. While many countries have some form of unemployment insurance system, there is considerable variation in terms of how much is paid, for how long, and in what circumstances.

  • Does unemployment insurance offer incentives to take jobs in the formal sector?

    Unemployment insurance can protect against income loss and create formal employment

    Mariano Bosch, October 2016
    Unemployment insurance can be an efficient tool to provide protection for workers against unemployment and foster formal job creation in developing countries. How much workers value this protection and to what extent it allows a more efficient job search are two key parameters that determine its effectiveness. However, evidence shows that important challenges remain in the introduction and expansion of unemployment insurance in developing countries. These challenges range from achieving coverage in countries with high informality, financing the scheme without further distorting the labor market, and ensuring progressive redistribution.
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  • Should unemployment insurance cover partial unemployment?

    Time-limited benefits may yield significant welfare gains and help underemployed part-time workers move to full-time employment

    Susanne Ek Spector, October 2015
    A considerable share of the labor force consists of underemployed part-time workers: employed workers who, for various reasons, are unable to work as much as they would like to. Offering unemployment benefits to part-time unemployed workers is controversial. On the one hand, such benefits can strengthen incentives to take a part-time job rather than remain fully unemployed, thus raising the probability of obtaining at least some employment. On the other hand, these benefits weaken incentives for part-time workers to look for full-time employment. It is also difficult to distinguish people who work part-time by choice from those who do so involuntarily.
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  • Do minimum wages induce immigration?

    The minimum wage affects international migration flows and the internal relocation of immigrants

    Corrado Giulietti, May 2015
    An increase in the minimum wage in immigrant destination countries raises the earnings that low-skilled migrants could expect to attain if they were to migrate. While some studies for the US indicate that a higher minimum wage induces immigration, contrasting evidence shows that immigrants are less likely to move into areas with higher or more frequent increases in the minimum wage. These different findings seem to reflect different relocation decisions by immigrants who have lived in the US for several years, who are more likely to move in response to higher minimum wages, and by new immigrants, who are less likely to move.
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  • Designing unemployment benefits in developing countries

    For unemployment benefit programs, the key policy issues are the level of benefits and subsidies and the types of taxes used to finance them

    David A. Robalino, July 2014
    In reforming unemployment benefit systems, the policy debate should be on the appropriate level of benefits, the subsidies needed for people who cannot contribute enough, and how to finance the subsidies, rather than on whether unemployment insurance or individual unemployment savings accounts are better. Unemployment insurance finances subsidies through implicit taxes on savings, while individual savings accounts with solidarity funds finance subsidies through payroll taxes. Taxes on certain consumption goods and real estate could be considered as well and could be less distortionary.
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  • Unemployment benefits and job match quality

    Do unemployment benefits help those seeking work to obtain better jobs?

    Unemployment insurance schemes face a well-known trade-off between providing income support to those out of work and reducing their incentive to look for work. This trade-off between benefits and incentives is central to the public debate about extending benefit periods during the recent economic crisis. Often overlooked in this debate is that such support can increase the quality of the work found by the unemployed. This quality rise, in terms of both wages and duration, can be achieved by increasing the time and resources available to an individual to obtain a better job.
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  • The welfare magnet hypothesis and the welfare take-up of migrants

    Welfare benefits are not a key determinant of migration

    Corrado Giulietti, June 2014
    Contrary to the welfare magnet hypothesis, empirical evidence suggests that immigration decisions are not made on the basis of the relative generosity of the receiving nation’s social benefits. Even when immigrants are found to use welfare more intensively than natives, the gap is mostly attributable to differences in social and demographic characteristics between immigrants and non-immigrants rather than to immigration status per se. Moreover, evidence in some countries suggests that immigrants exhibit less welfare dependency than natives, despite facing a higher risk of poverty.
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