NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Making a Career of Unemployment

May 10, 1999

There is no longer much stigma attached to being unemployed in Europe. Moreover, joblessness has become a way to attain state support, observers note.

  • In France, unemployment benefits pay 58 percent of the average wage and are available for two years.
  • The unemployed in Germany can collect 36 percent of the average wage for five years.
  • Benefits in Britain pay 21 percent of the average wage and are also available for five years.
  • While the U.S. pays 48 percent of the average wage, benefits stop after six months.

Only about one-third of workers who are out of work qualify for benefits in the U.S. -- where newer members of the labor force and temporary workers are ineligible. Contrast that to the 89 percent of unemployed workers who are eligible for benefits in Germany and 98 percent in France.

Experts have observed that younger Europeans are less imbued with the work ethic and so feel less guilt about admitting they are unemployed. Moreover, longer durations of subsidized unemployment cause people to lose skills -- and connections. Since most hiring is by word of mouth, people who don't know others with jobs find it hard to get one themselves.

Source: Sylvia Nasar, "Where Joblessness Is a Way of Making a Living," New York Times, May 9, 1999.


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