Unemployment

I. Recommendations


Get the Real Picture


No one in Macedonia knows the real picture. How many are employed and not reported or registered? How many are registered as unemployed but really have a job? How many are part time workers ? as opposed to full time workers? How many are officially employed (de jure) ? but de facto unemployed or severely underemployed? How many are on ?indefinite? vacations, on leave without pay, etc.?


The Statistics Bureau must be instructed to make the gathering and analysis of data regarding the unemployed (through household surveys and census, if necessary) ? a TOP PRIORITY.


A limited amnesty should be declared by the state on violations of worker registration by employers. All employers should be given 30 days to register all their unregistered and unreported workers ? without any penalty, retroactive or prospective (amnesty). Afterwards, labour inspectors should embark on sampling raids. Employers caught violating the labour laws should be heavily penalized. In severe cases, closures should be enforced against the workplace.


All the unemployed must register with the Employment Bureau once a month, whether they are receiving benefits, or not. Non-compliance will automatically trigger the loss of the status of ?unemployed?. If a person did not register without good cause, he would have the right to re-register, but his ?unemployment tenure? will re-commence from month 1 with the new registration.


I recommend instituting a households? survey in addition to a claimant count. Labour force surveys should be conducted at regular intervals ? regarding the structure of the workforce, its geographical distribution, the pay structure, employment time probabilities.


The statistics Bureau should propose and the government should adopt a Standard National Job Classification.


The Unemployment Benefits


Unemployment benefits ? if excessive and wrongly applied ? are self -perpetuating because they provide a strong disincentive to work.


Unemployment benefits should be means tested. There is no reason to pay unemployment benefits to the children of a multi-millionaire. Unemployed with assets (especially liquid assets) should not receive benefits, even if they are otherwise eligible. The benefits should scale down in accordance with wealth and income.


Unemployment benefits should always be limited in time, should decrease gradually and should be withheld from certain segments of the population, such as school dropouts, those who never held a job, (in some countries) women after childrearing.


Eligibility to unemployment benefits should be confined to those released from work immediately prior to the receipt of the benefits, who are available to work by registering in an employment bureau, who are actively seeking employment and who pass a means test. Benefits should be withheld from people who resigned voluntarily or discharged due to misconduct or criminal behaviour. In the USA, unemployment compensation is not available to farm workers, domestic servants, the briefly employed, government workers and the self- employed.


Unemployment benefits should not exceed short-term sickness benefits (as is the case in Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands). Optimally, they should be lower (as is the case in Greece, Germany and Hungary). Alternatively, even if sickness benefits are earnings-related, unemployment benefits can be flat (as is the case in Bulgaria and Italy). In Australia and New Zealand, both sickness benefits and unemployment benefits are means tested. It is recommended to reduce the replacement rate of unemployment benefits to 40% of net average monthly wages in the first 6 months of benefits and to 30% of net average monthly wages thereafter in the next 6 months.


Unemployment benefits should be limited in time. In Bulgaria, they are limited to 13 weeks, in Israel, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands to 6 months and in France, Germany, Luxemburg and the United Kingdom ? 12 months. Only in Belgium are unemployment benefits not limited in their duration. In most of these, countries, though, social welfare payments replace unemployment benefits following the prescribed period of time ? but they are usually lower than the unemployment benefits and serve as a disincentive to remain unemployed rather than employed. It is recommended to limit the duration of unemployment benefits to 12 months.


No health insurance should be paid for those unemployed for more than 6 months.


No unemployment benefits should be paid to a person who refuses work offered to him or her on any grounds, except on medical grounds.


I recommend a few pilot projects with the aim of implementing them nation-wide, should they prove successful:


A pilot project should be attempted to provide lump sum block grants to municipalities and to allow them to determine