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At Least 30 Countries Have Unemployment Benefits More Generous Than The U.S.

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Image: Pat GarofaloAccording to data from the International Monetary Fund analyzed by Tim Vlandas, there are at least 30 countries with unemployment benefits that are more generous than those that go to American workers. The University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Kenneth Thomas broke the data down:

The metric used is the gross replacement rate (GRR) the ratio of unemployment benefits to a worker’s previous wages. The United States gives, on average, a miserly 27.5% of previous wages in unemployment benefits, behind 17 OECD members, though ahead of 11 others (no data was given for OECD members Iceland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia). Not only that, the U.S. falls behind 13 non-OECD members, including Algeria, Taiwan, and Ukraine, all of which have at least double the replacement rate of the U.S.

The U.S. does rank ahead of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, but trails Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Tunisia in terms of the amount of income replaced by unemployment insurance. And in the wake of the Great Recession, instead of fashioning a better unemployment insurance system, Republicans across the country have slashed benefits, even while some, such as Florida, have high unemployment rates. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Congress have blocked andvoted against several benefit extensions.

But it remains the case that there are nearly four unemployed job seekers for every available job opening, making unemployment benefits a critical source of income for those who can’t find work through no fault of their own. And contrary to conservative claims that unemployment benefits are a “lifestyle,” those unemployed workers receiving UI stay unemployed less than two weeks longer than those who receive no benefits at all, according to research by the San Francisco Federal Reserve.

In 2009, average unemployment benefits were just $310 per week, with some states paying much less (like Mississippi, with its $192 weekly benefit). As the IMF data shows, that simply isn’t keeping up with the standard set by other developed (or not so developed) nations.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on April 16, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Pat Garofalo is Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.


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