Benefits do not make jobless lazy

High unemployment benefits do not lead to people becoming lazy and satisfied with their jobless status, a Europe-wide study suggests.

Levels of benefit have no effect on the well-being of those without a job, according to the study, which compared how unemployment affected people’s life satisfaction levels in 28 countries.

Differences across Europe

Researchers found that some countries with the most generous benefits also had some of the most despondent unemployed citizens, and vice versa.

Luxembourg and Sweden, for example, are in the top 25 per cent for of both benefit levels and dissatisfaction amongst the jobless.

Conversely, Romania and Poland are in the bottom 25 per cent for benefit levels yet are countries in which the unemployed are respectively the least and third-least affected by being out of work.

Those who claim that greater unemployment benefits lead to less motivation for people to seek employment should think again – for most people, it is not the degree of state provisions that determines how they personally feel about the experience of being unemployed. Unemployment does not just result in a loss of income, but also a change in social position – that is perceived differently in different societies.

Dr Jan Eichhorn

Chancellor's Fellow in the School of Social and Political Science

Other factors

Instead, cultural and demographic factors have a greater effect on the life-satisfaction levels of the unemployed, researchers found.

Being jobless in a country with a proportionally older population and fewer people of working age had a greater negative impact on personal wellbeing than benefit levels. So too did high levels of inflation and income inequality.

Unemployed Germans hardest hit

Being unemployed in Germany hurts an individual’s well-being significantly more than elsewhere in Europe, according to the report.

Dissatisfaction with life among unemployed Germans is more than 50% higher than it is among the jobless in the next closest nation, neighbouring Hungary.

The survey, which included all countries of the European Union and Norway, found that being unemployed in Spain, Poland and Romania has little effect on subjective well-being.

The United Kingdom was ranked 18th in the table of hardest hit countries.

How the study was compiled

The study used data from Eurostat, the central statistics office of the European Commission and the European Values Study.

The survey asked the participants to rate their satisfaction with life on a scale of one to 10, with one being dissatisfied and 10 being satisfied. To highlight the impact of unemployment, researchers took into account other socio-demographic differences between individuals.

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