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FactFind: How does Ireland's jobseeker's benefit compare to the rest of the EU?

One of the Budget talking points will be how our social welfare benefits compare to our EU counterparts.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

WITH THE BUDGET just days away, the conversation around social welfare is set to intensify.

One of the talking points will be how our social welfare benefits compare to our EU counterparts.

So, how do we do?

The parameters: To start, it’s important to note that not all social protection systems around Europe are equal, but all of the EU15 pay some form of support to jobseekers.

For the purposes of this article we will be comparing how much money goes from the exchequer to a person every week solely for employment support. 

We will not be factoring in housing, children or other supports. To compare like with like, our subject will be a 27-year-old who has lost a job and was paying PRSI or the national equivalent.

That means we are looking solely at the highest band of support. With that in mind, how do we compare?

Well, our example person will be able €193 a week under Jobseeker’s Benefit.

The benefit is available to people who suffer a “substantial loss of employment” and have a high enough PRSI contribution for two years. Based on the average weekly net income of €576 a week, this leaves our example earning 33.5% of their previous wage.

The allowance is usually benchmarked around the 30% mark. A person is entitled to remain on the benefit for six months if they have fewer than five years’ contributions. For over five years, that becomes nine months.

After that, the claimant moves to Jobseeker’s Allowance, which has a maximum rate identical to Jobseeker’s Benefit, €193.

Class A PRSI cost workers 4% of their gross weekly earnings.

So, would our person, single with no kids and living with family, be paid more if they lived in one of the EU15?

Austria

shutterstock_348048890 Vienna, Austria Source: Shutterstock/Brian Kinney

According to the European Commission:

“The basic amount of unemployment benefit is 55% of net daily income. This is calculated on the basis of the annual assessment base for social security contributions and appropriate extrapolation factors for one calendar year.”

Based on the average net salary of €23,208, that works out as €245 a week. Social insurance in Austria is 6% of salary, spread between the employer and employee.

Belgium

The Belgian system is slightly more complex than ours, with different amounts being paid over different time periods of unemployment.

However, the bottom line is that the majority of employees who become involuntarily unemployed will earn 65% of their previous wage for the first three months, dropping to 60% for the next three.

Based on average net salaries, that means €287 a week, dropping to €265 a week.

Denmark

Facebook Censures Nude Statue Small Mermaid - Copenhagen Source: Utrecht Robin/ABACAPRESS.COM

Denmark’s system is another which is very different to Ireland. In Denmark, workers are obliged to join insurance funds.

There are 24 non-profit, state-supported schemes that pay out in the event of unemployment.

Payment of the benefit is contingent on being a member of a fund for a year. Then, it is 90% of your previous salary, capped at €505 a week.

Based on the average net salary of €39,204, a worker would receive that amount.

Employment fund membership costs between €55 and €75 a month.

Finland

For up to 100 weeks, workers who become unemployed in Finland can receive a daily allowance and 45% of the difference between that allowance and their average daily wage. Again, this contingent on membership of an employment fund (around 80% of Finns are).

According to Kela, the Social Insurance Institute of Finland, the average payment is around €32.40 a day – €162 a week.

Based on a five-day working week, the average daily wage in Finland is €115.

Adding the 45% difference to the basic allowance gives the worker an extra €187.50 a week, ending up with €349.50 a week or around 60% of their previous wage.

France

French workers pay 2.4% of their wage as a social security contribution.

If they are under 52 and contribute for four months in the last 28, they can stay on benefits for two years.

In France, as with some other countries, the rate of benefit is based on previous salary.

Thus, an average worker earning €26,700 net a year would be entitled to either 57% of their salary (or 40.4% plus €11.84 a day, whichever is larger).

That means an average worker will earn €292 a week. Some workers will, however, be entitled to up to 75% of their wage.

Germany

Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany Source: Manuel Cohen/AP

The German system entitles workers to claim 60% of their previous wage if they have worked for 12 months.

They will pay 3% unemployment insurance contribution on their gross monthly salary.

This means that the average waged worker (€27,240 net per year) would claim €314 per week.

This is capped at €5,950 a month in west, €5,000 in the east.

Greece

While paid monthly, Greece works its payment out on a “daily benefits” rate.

Each day corresponds to 55% of the unskilled worker’s minimum wage. According to the country’s labour agency, the monthly unemployment benefit is €360 a month.

This is against the backdrop of an average net monthly salary of €917 a month, meaning the payment is 39% of the average salary.

Italy

Italy is another country which bases its calculation of unemployment benefits on previous salary.

This time, they base it on your previous two years’ earnings. This is calculated as 75% of your salary up to a cap of €1,192 a month.

If a person had earned above that, they are paid 25% of the difference.

So an average earner, picking up €1,948 net a month before unemployment, would come out with €1,083 a month, or €270 a week.

This is phased down to 60% of wages after six months.

Luxembourg

In Luxembourg, workers are entitled to 80% of their previous gross wage for their first three months of unemployment, as long as their benefit does not exceed 250% of the minimum wage.

This means that an average worker could be paid as much as €942 per week.

Netherlands

The Dutch system is particularly generous.

It gives qualifying workers – who have worked the last 26 of 36 weeks or 52 days a year in four of the last five years – a sizeable chunk of their wages.

For the first two months, you will be paid 75% of your wage, up to a maximum daily wage of €207.60.

This will drop to 70% for the duration of your eligibility, up to a maximum period of three years.

For an average wage worker (€25,824 a year, €2,152 a month, €538 a week, €76.85 a day), this translates to €403 a week. 

Portugal

If a person in Portugal has employment insurance, they will be paid 65% of their average earnings for the first six months, dropping by 10% thereafter.

This means an average worker will come out with around €137 a week.

Those without insurance are paid €419.22 a month or €104.80 a week.

Spain

Plaza Mayor in Madrid Plaza Mayor, Madrid. Source: DPA/PA Images

Spain, like its Iberian neighbour, works out its rate based on previous earnings.

Workers are paid 70% of their previous wages for six months and 50% thereafter. This is capped at 175% of the IPREM, a reference multiplier.

For average workers earning a net of €20,998 a year, this works out at around €282 a week. 

Sweden

Sweden, like its near neighbours in Denmark and Finland, uses an employment insurance system.

According to TheLocal.se, most Swedes are signed up for the funds, which are administered by private organisations like trade unions.

Membership of the fund entitles workers to 80% of their previous income, limited to €70 a day.

For the average earner, that means €546 a week, €2,184 a month.

UK

In the UK, over 25′s are paid £73.10 a week. This is equivalent to €82.70 a week or 18% of average earnings.

Conclusion

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This is something of a blunt measurement of a very nuanced topic, but highlights that Ireland’s jobseeker’s benefit is delivered at a lower percentage of average earnings than other EU countries, the UK excepted.

Proponents of Ireland’s system will argue that the support is just one part of the social welfare safety net, pointing out that child benefit in Ireland is second in terms of monetary value only to Belgium.

They will add that the country has recently emerged from economic recession which saw the rate cut, slashed for under 25s, or frozen.

There is also the fact that some countries spend way in excess of what Ireland does on social welfare as a percentage of GDP. Here in Ireland, our €19 billion social welfare budget accounts for 16.1%. Denmark spends 28.7% and France 31.5%.

There is also the argument that some countries have a higher cost of living. However, this analysis checks welfare as a percentage of average earnings, not on a like-for-like basis.

The fact remains that an Irish person earning the average wage who loses their job will be much worse off in terms of cash in hand than in most other EU15 nations.

Department response

A query from TheJournal.ie asked the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection:

  • Is the allowance benchmarked against earnings and if so at what rate?
  • Is it fair to say our allowance is proportionately less than other countries based on average earnings?

The response said that while there was no benchmarking against earnings, there are increases (starting at €128.10 a week) for those who have children as well as a fuel allowance.

“It should be noted that graduated rates of Jobseeker’s Benefit apply for those with average weekly earnings of less than €300 per week, to ensure that a person is not better off on Jobseeker’s Benefit than in employment.

“While most European countries pay Jobseeker’s Benefit as a proportion of reference earnings, some do not.

“For instance, in the UK, the rate of unemployment benefit is £73.10 (€82.70) per week (less than 15% of UK’s average earnings) for a single person and £114.85 per week (€129.90) for a couple.

“In Malta, the rate is €40.25 per week for a single person (less than 13% of average weekly earnings) and €61.55 per week for a married couple.

“In Poland, the maximum rate (for a person working for more than 20 years) is €225.60 per month, or €52.06 per week (approximately 23% of average weekly earnings) with no increases for couples or family supplements.”

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

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