IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Optimal Workfare with Voluntary and Involuntary Unemployment


  • Claus Thustrup Kreiner

    (Institute of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

  • Torben Tranæs

    (Rockwool Foundation Research Unit)


This paper studies whether a benevolent government should use workfare as part of its unemployment benefit policy. We consider a population composed of employed and unemployed workers as well as individuals who do not seek employment. Job search behavior is private information implying that voluntarily unemployed individuals can claim unemployment insurance (UI) benefits intended for unemployed workers. As a consequence, pecuniary benefit schemes underinsure workers against unemployment. We show that requiring unproductive activities (workfare) in exchange for UI benefits may create a Pareto improvement by facilitating better unemployment insurance for workers, and we characterize the situations where this is the case.

Suggested Citation

  • Claus Thustrup Kreiner & Torben Tranæs, 2003. "Optimal Workfare with Voluntary and Involuntary Unemployment," EPRU Working Paper Series 03-15, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics, revised Aug 2004.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:epruwp:03-15

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brett, Craig, 1998. "Who Should Be on Workfare? The Use of Work Requirements as Part of an Optimal Tax Mix," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 607-622, October.
    2. Bruce D. Meyer, 1995. "Lessons from the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 91-131, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Peter Fredriksson & Bertil Holmlund, 2006. "Optimal unemployment insurance design: Time limits, monitoring, or workfare?," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 13(5), pages 565-585, September.
    2. Torben M. Andersen & Michael Svarer, 2014. "The Role of Workfare in Striking a Balance between Incentives and Insurance in the Labour Market," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 81(321), pages 86-116, January.
    3. Volker Meier, 2008. "Workfare in an efficiency wage model," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 165-178, April.
    4. Sean Slack & David Ulph, 2014. "Optimal Universal and Categorical Benefits with Classification Errors and Imperfect Enforcement," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201411, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
    5. Peter Fredriksson & Bertil Holmlund, 2006. "Improving Incentives in Unemployment Insurance: A Review of Recent Research," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(3), pages 357-386, July.
    6. Holzner, Christian & Meier, Volker & Werding, Martin, 2010. "Workfare, monitoring, and efficiency wages," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 157-168, March.
    7. Fallesen, Peter & Geerdsen, Lars Pico & Imai, Susumu & Tranæs, Torben, 2014. "The Effect of Workfare on Crime: Incapacitation and Program Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 8716, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Bovenberg, A.L. & Hansen, M. & Sorensen, P.B., 2008. "Individual savings accounts for social insurance : Rationale and alternative designs," Other publications TiSEM 72e236b0-ad63-4bea-a314-6, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    9. Slack, Sean & Ulph, David, 2014. "Optimal Universal and Categorical Benefits with Classification Errors and Imperfect Enforcement," 2007 Annual Meeting, July 29-August 1, 2007, Portland, Oregon TN 2015-13, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    10. Christian Keuschnigg & Thomas Davoine, 2010. "Flexicurity and Job Reallocation," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2010 2010-11, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
    11. Andersen, Torben M., 2012. "Migration, Redistribution and the Universal Welfare Model," IZA Discussion Papers 6665, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Jan C. van Ours, 2007. "Compulsion in active labour market programmes," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 202(1), pages 67-78, October.
    13. Molander, Anders & Torsvik, Gaute, 2013. "Getting People Into Work: What (If Anything) Can Justify Mandatory Activation Of Welfare Recipients?," Working Papers in Economics 03/13, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
    14. Slack, Sean & Ulph, David, 2014. "Optimal Universal and Categorical Benefits with Classification Errors and Imperfect Enforcement," SIRE Discussion Papers 2015-13, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).

    More about this item


    unemployment insurance; workfare; Pareto optimality;

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kud:epruwp:03-15. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Thomas Hoffmann). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.