Camille Landais, Arash Nekoei, J Peter Nilsson, David Seim, Johannes Spinnewijn, 03 February 2018

Unemployment insurance is compulsory in almost all countries, with no choice for workers over the level of coverage. But why restrict choice if it can improve the targeting of individuals who value the insurance the most? This column uses evidence from Sweden to examine whether the issue of adverse selection justifies a universal mandate for unemployment insurance. Workers who purchased more generous unemployment insurance were more than twice as likely to be unemployed in the following year. A universal mandate combats such adverse selection, but forces workers to buy insurance even when insurance costs are higher than the value they assign to it.

Julia Bredtmann, Sebastian Otten, Christian Rulff, 21 December 2017

Little is known about how unemployment shocks are absorbed within the household. This column uses longitudinal micro data for 28 European countries to investigate the effect of husbands’ job loss on wives’ labour supply. Overall, there is evidence that women increase their labour supply in response to their husband losing a job. However, the response varies over both the business cycle and across different welfare regimes.

Pierre Cahuc, Sandra Nevoux, 14 September 2017

Short-time work reduces job destruction by subsidising firms to reduce hours of work and provide earnings support to workers facing lower hours. Since 2008, firms in France that stand to benefit have lobbied successfully to expand the programme massively. This column argues that the expansion primarily benefited large firms using short-time work recurrently to deal with seasonal fluctuations. Making employers contribute to the cost of short-time work would make the policy more efficient.

Thomas Le Barbanchon, Roland Rathelot, Alexandra Roulet, 27 June 2017

The generosity of unemployment insurance can influence the time and energy job seekers dedicate to searching for a job, as well as the jobs they are willing to accept. Yet we know little about how unemployment insurance affects the reservation wages of the unemployed. Using new French data, this column shows that increasing unemployment generosity does not affect the reservation wages or the ‘pickiness’ of job seekers.

Sandra Black, Jason Furman, Emma Rackstraw, Nirupama Rao, 06 July 2016

Labour force participation among men ages 25-54 in the US has been falling for more than six decades. This column examines this longstanding decline, its potential causes, and its implications for public policy and the future of the US labour market.

Patrick Arni, Rafael Lalive, Gerard Van den Berg, 11 January 2016

The standard empirical evaluations of labour market policy only consider the direct effects of single programmes on their participants. This column argues that this fails to capture important aspects of real-world labour market policy – policy regimes and strategies. Using Swiss data, it employs a novel empirical approach that concurrently examines the effects of supportive and punitive policies (‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’). Policy regimes are shown to exert economically relevant effects, and accounting for these effects is crucial when designing labour market policy.

Arash Nekoei, Andrea Weber, 10 July 2015

The generosity of unemployment insurance is often cited as a reason for long spells of joblessness. But this view neglects other important, and potentially positive, economic aspects of such programmes. Using Austrian data, this column presents evidence that unemployment insurance has a positive effect on the quality of jobs that recipients find. This can in turn have a positive effect on future tax revenues, and has implications for the debate on optimal insurance generosity.

Claudio Michelacci, Hernán Ruffo, 18 November 2014

Like any insurance mechanism, unemployment benefits involve a trade-off between risk sharing and moral hazard. Whereas previous studies have concluded that unemployment insurance is close to optimal in the US, this column argues that replacement rates should vary over the life cycle. Young people typically have little means to smooth consumption during a spell of unemployment, while the moral hazard problems are minor – regardless of replacement rates, the young want jobs to improve their lifetime career prospects and to build up human capital.

Rafael Lalive, Camille Landais, Josef Zweimüller, 09 November 2013

In response to the Great Recession, unemployment insurance has been extended in many countries, but there is controversy over whether such extensions are optimal. Unemployment insurance entails direct fiscal costs, and encourages job seekers to prolong their search. The familiar benefit of unemployment insurance is that it allows the jobless to maintain their consumption. However, by reducing the search effort of other workers, it also improves a given worker’s chance of finding a job. Unemployment insurance extensions appear less costly when these search externalities are considered.

Olivier Blanchard, Florence Jaumotte, Prakash Loungani, 18 October 2013

The state of labour markets in advanced economies remains dismal despite recent signs of growth. This column explains the IMF’s logic behind the advice it provided on labour markets during the Great Recession. It argues that flexibility is crucial both at the micro level, i.e. on worker reallocation, and at the macro level, e.g. on collective agreements. It suggests that the IMF approach is close to the consensus among labour-market researchers.

Camille Landais, Emmanuel Saez, 29 November 2010

Much controversy surrounds the generosity of unemployment insurance in modern economies. Do generous benefits discourage workers from looking for jobs and increase unemployment? Or does unemployment in recessions simply stem from a lack of jobs? CEPR DP8132 explores the optimal level of unemployment benefits during the booms and busts of the business cycle.

Gonzalo Reyes, Jan van Ours, Milan Vodopivec, 09 February 2010

How can policymakers provide unemployment insurance while minimising adverse incentives? This column presents new evidence from Chile suggesting unemployment insurance savings accounts can increase job-finding rates. This provides a strong endorsement of the savings account component to reform traditional unemployment insurance programmes.