Welfare state and social Europe

Michele Andreolli, Paolo Surico, 29 April 2021

What is the consumption response to unexpected transitory income gains of different size and what are the aggregate demand implications of stimulus packages that target different segments of the population? This column explores these questions using responses to hypothetical questions in the Italian Survey of Household Income and Wealth. Families with low cash-at-hand display a higher marginal propensity to consume out of small gains, while affluent households exhibit a higher marginal propensity to consume out of large gains. For a given level of public spending, a fiscal transfer of a smaller size paid to a larger group of low-income households stimulates aggregate consumption more than a larger transfer paid to a smaller group.

Hélène Benghalem, Pierre Cahuc, Pierre Villedieu, 05 April 2021

The rise of alternative work arrangements – from temporary and part-time work to self-employment and online gig-economy jobs – has increased the take-up of part-time unemployment benefits in several countries. This column presents the results of a large experiment among recipients of unemployment-benefits insurance in France. It shows that increasing part-time unemployment benefits raises the propensity to work in non-regular jobs, but also extends the duration of compensated unemployment and unemployment insurance expenditure, suggesting that the lock-in effects of compensated unemployment associated with part-time benefits require precise evaluation.

Naomitsu Yashiro, Tomi Kyyrä, Hyunjeong Hwang, Juha Tuomala, 12 March 2021

Across OECD countries, promoting longer working lives is an important policy objective for mitigating fiscal pressures from population ageing. This column uses data from Finland to examine how technological change and access to early retirement pathways reinforce each other in pushing older workers out of employment. It finds that the probability of leaving employment is higher for individuals in occupations with higher automation risks and increases faster for individuals closer to the eligible age for early retirement pathways.Reforms that tighten access to such pathways substantially extend the working lives of older workers exposed to high automation risks, but have little effect on old workers exposed to low automation risks.

Stefan Pichler, Katherine Wen, Nicolas Robert Ziebarth, 05 March 2021

By now, it should be clear that presenteeism (going into work when sick) contributes significantly to the transmission of diseases. This column summarises current evidence on sick-pay mandates in the US and the spread of flu-like illnesses and COVID-19. Over the last ten years, states that introduced sick-pay mandates saw a decrease in seasonal flu activity by up to 30% in the first years compared to states that didn’t introduce such mandates. Introducing sick-pay mandates did not result in significant employment or wages decreases. Mandating COVID-19-related emergency sick leave also significantly reduced COVID-19 infection rates in states previously without sick-pay mandates, especially affecting low-income and service-sector employees.

Ammar Farooq, Adriana Kugler, Umberto Muratori, 07 February 2021

Economists have long debated whether extensions to unemployment insurance benefit durations help or hinder the labour market. Using US administrative microdata, this column shows that the generosity of unemployment insurance benefits has a positive effect on the labour market by improving job match quality. Importantly, these benefits are greater for women as well as for minority and less educated workers. In light of the current economic crisis, giving ideally suited workers and firms sufficient time to find each other can be part of the healing. 

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