Benefit levels 'do not promote laziness', study suggests

Young woman looking a job vacancies board The Europe-wide study compared how unemployment affected life satisfaction levels

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High levels of benefits for the unemployed do not lead to a lack of motivation to find work, a Europe-wide study has found.

University of Edinburgh researchers found benefit levels had "no effect" on the wellbeing of those without a job.

Researchers found some countries with the most generous benefits also had some of the most despondent unemployed citizens, and vice versa.

Their paper covered 28 countries across Europe.

It compared how unemployment affected people's life satisfaction levels.

Researchers found that Luxembourg and Sweden were in the top 25% for both benefit levels and dissatisfaction amongst the jobless.

Conversely, Romania and Poland were in the bottom 25% for benefit levels - yet their unemployed were respectively the least and third-least affected by being out of work.

Other factors

The report suggested that cultural and demographic factors had a greater effect on life-satisfaction levels of the unemployed.

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Being jobless in a country with a proportionally older population and fewer people of working age had a greater negative impact on personal wellbeing than benefit levels.

So too did high levels of inflation and income inequality, it suggested.

Being unemployed in Germany hurt an individual's wellbeing significantly more than elsewhere in Europe, according to the report.

Dissatisfaction with life among unemployed Germans was more than 50% higher than among the jobless in neighbouring Hungary.

'Little effect'

The survey, which included all countries of the European Union and Norway, found that being unemployed in Spain, Poland and Romania had "little effect" on subjective wellbeing.

The UK was ranked 18th in the table of hardest-hit countries.

The study used data from Eurostat, the central statistics office of the European Commission, and the European Values Study, a research project on human values in Europe.

Report author Dr Jan Eichhorn, from the University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science, said: "Those who claim that greater unemployment benefits lead to less motivation for people to seek employment should think again.

"For most people, it is not the degree of state provisions that determines how they personally feel about the experience of being unemployed.

"Unemployment does not just result in a loss of income, but also a change in social position - that is perceived differently in different societies."

The study was published in the journal Social Indicators Research.

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