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Unemployment insurance and duration of unemployment : evidence from Slovenia's transition

Listed author(s):
  • Vodopivec, Milan

Between 1990 and 1992 in Slovenia, recipients of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits tended to remain (formally) unemployed until their benefits expired, before taking a job. Institutional set-up suggests, and labor surveys show, that many of the recipients were actually working while collecting UI benefits. In the spirit, if not in the letter of the law, the UI system was abused. The author shows that the escape rate of the recipients of unemployment compensation to employment increased dramatically just before the potential exhaustion of unemployment benefits - and decreased equally dramatically after benefits were exhausted. When grouped by the potential duration of benefits, unemployment length varies significantly. The unemployed with longer potential benefits stay unemployed longer. Because these groups differ in their characteristics (for example, in age), this does not prove the"waiting behavior"of the recipients. However, exits to employment dramatically increase just before exhaustion - and that does prove waiting behavior. The pattern of an increased escape rate just before benefits are exhausted and its dramatic fall thereafter is more rigorously demonstrated using hazard model estimation. Possibilities for informal employment are abundant in Slovenia, and the environment of transition economies generally seems conducive to misuse of the UI system. Legislative loopholes and failure to enforce the labor code allowed the unemployed to work and to collect benefits. The monitoring of job searches was also lax. The author's calculations suggest that reducing the duration of benefits would reduce the incidence of unemployment, its duration, the amount spent on UI benefits, and the inefficiencies generated by raising taxes to finance unemployment insurance. At the same time, reducing the duration of benefits would not impair job matches or crowd out jobs for nonrecipients. True, despite increased efficiency generally, the workers with the least job mobility might suffer hardships for the least mobile group and greater efficiency generally would have to be resolved in the political sphere. Redesigning the system for better targeting would be less controversial. One way to reduce UI spending without seriously curtailing incentives to work would be to reduce the benefits in proportion to earnings from irregular work. Another possibility is stricter monitoring of the job searches of the unemployed. To reduce spending and make"double dipping"less attractive, old-age insurance could be removed from the package of benefits the UI system offers. Also, counselors who help the unemployed find jobs (and who may thus develop a close relationship with them) should perhaps not be expected to be able to make impartial decisions about disqualifications for benefits; someone else should do that. In addition to better targeting, a"benefit transfer program"- a voluntary program that converts UI benefits Also, counselors who help the unemployed find jobs (through vouchers) into hiring subsidies - seems particularly attractive for Slovenia and other transition economies. In a way, such a program would legalize the"double-dipping"that has been taking place in Slovenia and possibly elsewhere. It would legalize practices that have undermined the system's credibility. But it might improve fiscal savings while sustaining the incentive to find jobs.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1552.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 1995
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1552
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  1. Hunt, Jennifer, 1995. "The Effect of Unemployment Compensation on Unemployment Duration in Germany," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 88-120, January.
  2. Katz, Lawrence F. & Meyer, Bruce D., 1990. "The impact of the potential duration of unemployment benefits on the duration of unemployment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 45-72, February.
  3. Atkinson, Anthony B & Micklewright, John, 1991. "Unemployment Compensation and Labor Market Transitions: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1679-1727, December.
  4. Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Spells," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(4), pages 757-782, July.
  5. Vodopivec, Milan & Hribar-Milic, Samo, 1993. "The Slovenian labor market in transition : issues and lessons learned," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1162, The World Bank.
  6. Orazem, Peter F & Vodopivec, Milan, 1995. "Winners and Losers in Transition: Returns to Education, Experience, and Gender in Slovenia," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 9(2), pages 201-230, May.
  7. Snower, Dennis J., 1994. "The Simple Economics of Benefit Transfers," CEPR Discussion Papers 1086, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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