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The distributional effects of austerity measures: a comparison of six EU countries

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  • Callan, Tim
  • Leventi, Chrysa
  • Levy, Horacio
  • Matsaganis, Manos
  • Paulus, Alari
  • Sutherland, Holly

Abstract

We compare the distributional effects of austerity measures that have been introduced in 6 EU countries in the period of large government budget deficits following the 2007-8 financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn. We explore the effects of policy changes presented as austerity measures in Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the UK, using the EU microsimulation model EUROMOD and the Irish national model, SWITCH. The six countries have chosen different policy mixes to achieve varying degrees of fiscal consolidation. We focus on the first round effects of increases in personal taxes, cuts in spending on cash benefits and reductions in public sector pay across the distributions of household income. There is a range of important conceptual and consistency issues to be addressed when doing such analysis, particularly in a comparative setting. These include how to identify austerity measures in a consistent manner, the relevant time periods to consider, the assumptions behind the counterfactual scenarios and the scope of the policies considered. Using a set of common assumptions we find that the burden of fiscal consolidation brought about through changes in components of household disposable income is shared differently across the income distribution in the six countries. At one extreme, in Greece, the better off lose a higher proportion of their incomes than the poor and at the other, in Portugal, the poor lose a higher proportion than the rich. Bringing increases in indirect taxes into the picture can alter conclusions about the overall distributional effect, increasing the cost most for those with lower income and making the overall incidence of the measures more regressive.

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Paper provided by EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research in its series EUROMOD Working Papers with number EM6/11.

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Date of creation: 22 Dec 2011
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Publication status: published
Handle: RePEc:ese:emodwp:em6-11

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  1. Tim Callan & Brian Nolan & Claire Keane & John R. Walsh, 2010. "Inequality and the Crisis: The Distributional Impact of Tax Increases and Welfare and Public Sector Pay Cuts," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 41(4), pages 461-471.
  2. Callan, Tim & Keane, Claire & Walsh, John R. & Lane, Marguerita, 2010. "From Data to Policy Analysis: Tax-Benefit Modelling using SILC 2008," Papers WP359, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  3. André Decoster & Jason Loughrey & Cathal O'Donoghue & Dirk Verwerft, 2010. "How regressive are indirect taxes? A microsimulation analysis for five European countries," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(2), pages 326-350.
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Cited by:
  1. Sebastian Leitner, 2013. "Analysis of Short and Medium Term Crisis Effects on Welfare and Poverty in SEE: Stress Testing Bulgarian and Romanian Households," wiiw Balkan Observatory Working Papers 111, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
  2. Figari, Francesco & Matsaganis, Manos & Sutherland, Holly, 2011. "The financial well-being of older people in Europe and the redistributive effects of minimum pension schemes," EUROMOD Working Papers EM7/11, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  3. Fernandez Salgado, Mariña & Figari, Francesco & Sutherland, Holly & Tumino, Alberto, 2012. "Welfare compensation for unemployment in the Great Recession," EUROMOD Working Papers EM3/12, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  4. Koutsampelas, Christos & Polycarpou, Alexandros, 2013. "Austerity and the income distribution: the case of Cyprus," EUROMOD Working Papers EM4/13, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  5. Sutherland, Holly & Figari, Francesco, 2013. "EUROMOD: The European Union Tax-Benefit Microsimulation Model," EUROMOD Working Papers EM8/13, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  6. Leventi, Chrysa & Matsaganis, Manos, 2013. "Distributional Implications of the Crisis in Greece in 2009-2012," EUROMOD Working Papers EM14/13, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  7. Francesco Figari & Paulus, A. (Alari), 2012. "GINI DP 28: The impact of indirect taxes and imputed rent on inequality: A comparison with cash transfers and direct taxes in five EU countries," GINI Discussion Papers 28, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
  8. European Commission, 2013. "Tax reforms in EU Member States - Tax policy challenges for economic growth and fiscal sustainability – 2013 Report," Taxation Papers 38, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
  9. Stefan Bach & Peter Haan & Richard Ochmann, 2013. "Taxation of Married Couples in Germany and the UK: One-Earner Couples Make the Difference," International Journal of Microsimulation, Interational Microsimulation Association, vol. 6(3), pages 3-24.

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