Wage subsidies and in-work benefits

  • Do in-work benefits work for low-skilled workers?

    To boost the employment rate of the low-skilled trapped in inactivity is it sufficient to supplement their earnings?

    Bruno Van der Linden, March 2016
    High risk of poverty and low employment rates are widespread among low-skilled groups, especially in the case of some household compositions (e.g. single mothers). “Making-work-pay” policies have been advocated for and implemented to address these issues. They alleviate the above-mentioned problems without providing a disincentive to work. However, do they deliver on their promises? If they do reduce poverty and enhance employment, can we further determine their effects on indicators of well-being, such as mental health and life satisfaction, or on the acquisition of human capital?
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  • Labor market policies, unemployment, and identity

    Policies to help the unemployed can affect feelings of identity and well-being, so measures need to be evaluated carefully

    Ronnie Schöb, June 2016
    Unemployment not only causes material hardship but can also affect an individual’s sense of identity (i.e. their perception of belonging to a specific social group) and, consequently, feelings of personal happiness and subjective well-being. Labor market policies designed to help the unemployed may not overcome their misery: wage subsidies can be stigmatizing, workfare may not provide the intended incentives, and flexicurity (a system that combines a flexible labor market with active policy measures), may increase uncertainty. Policies aimed at bringing people back to work should thus take the subjective well-being of the affected persons more into consideration.
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  • Youth labor market interventions

    Comprehensive programs that focus on skills can reduce unemployment and upgrade skills in OECD countries

    Jochen Kluve, December 2014
    Reducing youth unemployment and generating more and better youth employment opportunities are key policy challenges worldwide. Active labor market programs for disadvantaged youth may be an effective tool in such cases, but the results have often been disappointing in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The key to a successful youth intervention program is comprehensiveness, comprising multiple targeted components, including job-search assistance, counseling, training, and placement services. Such programs can be expensive, however, which underscores the need to focus on education policy and earlier interventions in the education system.
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  • Should severance pay be consistent for all workers?

    Single, open-ended contracts with severance pay smoothly rising with seniority can decrease both unemployment and job losses

    The trend towards labor market flexibility in Europe has typically involved introducing legislation that makes it easier for firms to issue temporary contracts with low firing costs, while not changing the level of protection that is in place for permanent jobs. This has created a strong “dualism” in some European labor markets, which might affect turnover, wage setting, and human capital accumulation. In view of this, some economists propose replacing the existing system of temporary and permanent contracts by a single open-ended contract for new hires, with severance pay smoothly increasing with tenure on the job.
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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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  • Short-time work compensations and employment

    Temporary government schemes can have a positive economic effect

    Pierre Cahuc, May 2014
    Government schemes that compensate workers for the loss of income while they are on short hours (known as short-time work compensation schemes) make it easier for employers to temporarily reduce hours worked so that labor is better matched to output requirements. Because the employers do not lay off these staff, the schemes help to maintain permanent employment levels during recessions. However, they can create inefficiency in the labor market, and might limit labor market access for freelancers and those looking to work part-time.
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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 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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