4. Unemployment benefits in the different European countries
(data Eurostat on the 1st of January 2003)
Germany: in accordance with the social code, financed by obligatory social contributions of all workers, the unemployment insurance is allocated for a period depending on the age and on the duration of contributions to the unemployed who can justify at least 12 working months in the last 3 years. The unemployment assistance, financed by tax, complements the unemployment benefits for people who have exhausted their rights. The benefit rates are 60% of the net salary for unemployed without children and 67% for unemployed with children. Specific measures are set for older unemployed Austria: a system very close to the German system is defined by the law. Benefit rates are 55% of the net salary for the unemployment insurance and 92% of the minimum income for the unemployment assistance.
Belgium: Defined by the law, unemployment benefits are financed by an obligatory contribution of workers. They are allocated for an unlimited duration under the condition to have been working for 312 days in the last 18 months or 624 days in the last 36 months. Their level is defined by a percentage of the previous average salary limited to 63 € a day, 60% the first year and 44% the following years for a single person, 60% for people with dependant family members, 55% the first year for « coinhabitants » (unmarried couple living under the same roof) without dependent family members. Specific measures are set for older unemployed.
Denmark: defined by the law, the principle is based on the voluntary contribution of the worker. Benefits are allocated on the condition to have been working 52 weeks during the last 3 years and to have been affiliated to a fund for at least one year. The entitlement duration is one year (6 months for young under 25’s), then at the most 3 years on the condition to participate in different measures against unemployment. The benefit rate is 90% of the reference salary and limited to 1624 € a month (1232 for young under 25). Specific measures are set for older unemployed.
Spain: The unemployment insurance is defined by the law. It is financed by obligatory social contributions. It is allocated to unemployed who have worked at least 360 days in the last 6 years for a period from 4 months to 2 years according to the paid contributions. The amount is worth 70% of the reference salary for the first 182 days and then 60%. Specific measures are set for older unemployed. The unemployment assistance complements the unemployment benefits during 6 to 18 months at the most for people who have exhausted their rights. The unemployment assistance is worth 75% of the minimum wage during the first 6 months.
Finland: Defined by the law, the system is made of an unemployment insurance divided in two parts: a basic allowance for those who have worked 43 weeks during the last 24 months with a minimum of 18 hours a week and an allowance proportional to incomes for those who affiliated to a voluntary fund during the same period. The entitlement duration is 500 days. The basic allowance is a bit less than 23 € and the proportional allowance adds 42% of the difference between the daily wage and the basic allowance. Young people aged 17 who have not finished their training course or the ones aged from 18 to 25 who refused employment schemes or training are excluded from the system. Specific measures are set for older unemployed. The unemployment assistance covers those who are not entitled or have exhausted their rights. The amount is equal to the basic allowance.
France: The unemployment insurance is defined by long term agreements between employer's organizations and trade unions that administrate the UNEDIC which is a private law organization. These agreements must respect the principles of the labour law and thus be officially approved by the government. The financing is ensured by contributions based on the salaries paid by employers and workers. The duration of entitlement vary from 7 to 42 months in accordance with the previous working period and the age. The amount is worth 57,4% of the gross salary of reference. A specific solidarity allowance (ASS) takes over the unemployed insurance for the unemployed who have exhausted their rights, under some conditions, specifically the level of the family income. At the most, the ASS is worth 13,57 € a day (19,47 for older unemployed aged more than 55). Until now, the entitlement was unlimited, but the question was raised to limit it to 2 years, Nethertheless, this measure is under discussion. There are some complicated systems for older unemployed.
Greece: Defined by the law, the unemployment insurance is allocated to unemployed workers who have a sickness insurance affiliation to a social security organization, and who have worked at least 125 days during the last 14 months or 200 days during the last 2 years before their redundancy. The duration of the entitlement depends on the duration of the previous working period. The amount of allowances is worth 50% of the daily wage or 50% of the monthly salary depending on the worker's status. Specific measures are set for older unemployed. Ireland: The unemployed insurance system is defined by the law. It is financed by obligatory contributions taken out of the salaries. Allowances are allocated to unemployed who have paid contributions during 39 weeks in the year before their redundancy or 26 weeks during the two previous years for an entitlement of a maximum of 390 days. The allowances are uniform and are worth 475 €. Specific measures are set for older unemployed. The unemployment assistance, financed by tax takes over the allowances for those who have exhausted their rights, it is depending on resources conditions and is worth 475 €.
Italy: defined by the law, the system covers full unemployment and short time unemployment. Allowances are given to unemployed who have paid at least 52 monthly contributions in a 2 years period. People are entitled for a maximum of 180 days (270 for unemployed older than 50). The amount is 40% of the salary of reference for the 3 last month preceding the redundancy with a limit of 760 € for salaries below 1644 € and 913 for the others. As for short time unemployment, a supplement is added on the salary to workers in firms of specific category and locality which do not fit with demanded conditions enabling to be under the full employment system. There is not any specific measure are set for older unemployed.
Luxembourg: Defined by the law, the system ensures an unemployed allowance to those who have worked at least 26 weeks during the year before the redundancy. The standard duration of entitlement is one year and can be extended to 182 days for unemployed who have difficulties to find a job, it can also be extended to durations depending on the duration of affiliation for people older than 50. The allowance rate is worth 80% of the salary of reference. Specific measures are set for older unemployed.
Netherlands: The system is defined by the law. Allowances are allocated to unemployed who have worked at least 26 weeks in the last 39 weeks. The duration varies between 9 months and 4 years. The allowance rate is worth 70% of the last salary with a maximum daily amount of 159 €. Specific measures are set for older unemployed.
Portugal: Defined by the law, the system is based on a social insurance regime compulsory for workers. It is completed by the unemployment assistance for those who are not entitled to unemployment insurance. Allowances are allocated to those who have worked at least 540 days during the last 24 months before their redundancy, for a period going from 12 to 30 months at the most and according to the age. The amount is worth 65% of the salary of reference. The unemployment assistance is allocated to those who can justify 180 working days during the last 12 months. The entitlement periods follow the same rules as the unemployment insurance but when assistance allowances are allocated after people have been allocated insurance allowances, the duration is divided by two. The amount of the unemployment assistance allowances are worth 80% of the minimum wage. Older unemployed are compulsorily retired when their rights are exhausted.
United Kingdom: defined by the law, the system provides an unemployment allowance financed by compulsory social contributions of workers and an assistance financed by tax. Allowances are allocated according to family resources conditions for a period of a maximum of 182 days as far as insurance is concerned and an unlimited period for the assistance. The basic rates of these allowances are 340 € a month (204 for young aged 16 – 17, 268 for the 18-24) and 523 € for a couple. There is not any specific measure are set for older unemployed.
Sweden: Defined by the law, the system has two constituents: an allowance proportional to the income (80% of the income) for people who chose to affiliate an unemployment insurance fund for at least 12 months; a basic allowance for people older than 20 For an East – West solidarity of the social movements years old who cannot get the proportional allowance and who have worked at least 6 months, 70 hours a month. The basic allowance is allocated for 300 days at the most and is worth 29 € a day. There is not any specific measure set for older unemployed.
In the countries acceding the E.U. on the 1st May 2004-07-14
Estonia: an allowance of which the amount is uniform and allocated by the government for a 6 months period.
Hungary: an unemployment allowance is allocated during one year to those who have affiliated the unemployment insurance before they were declared redundant. It is worth 75% of the salary of reference the first 6 months and then 60%. Latvia: Those who have been affiliated during 9 months in the 12 last months can benefit from an unemployment allowance during 9 months. It is worth 70% of the salary of reference (135 €).
Lithuania: an allowance from 39 to 72 € according to the previous duration of affiliation is allocated during 6 months. Poland: one has to have worked and paid contributions to the « work fund » for at least 12 months during the last 18 months to be entitled to an allowance. It is allocated during 6 to 18 months according to the unemployment rate. Its amount depends on the working period. The basic allowance is worth 81 €.
Slovakia: an allowance is allocated to those who have worked and paid contributions. The entitlement duration varies from 6 to 12 months according to the contribution duration. It is worth 60% of the salary the first 6 months and then 50%.
Slovenia: one has to have paid contributions during 9 months in the last 12 months to be entitled. The allowances are allocated for 3 to 24 months according to the contribution duration. They are worth 80% of the minimum wage.
Czech Republic: an allowance is allocated during 6 months to those who have worked at least 12 months during the last 3 years. It is worth 60% of the net monthly salary for the first 3 months and then 50%.
An overview of the social situation in the European countries can
be consulted in all E.U. languages on the website:
To consult Eurostat data: