The List: The Best Places to Lose Your Job
As many as 50 million people could be out of work by the end of 2009. But the unemployed in some countries definitely have it better than others.
Benefits: 80 to 90 percent of prior income
For how long? 10 months to four years
Life on the dole: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Theyre cold. Theyre dark. And theyre the best places on Earth to be sacked. On virtually every metric, these countries outspend and outdo all others in supporting the involuntarily unemployed. Denmark — home to the most generous entitlement in the world — offers up to 90 percent of prior earnings for up to 48 months. Average-income workers in Finland take home about 85 percent for up to 500 days, a little over 17 months. Comparatively stingy Sweden provides about 80 percent of earnings for about 10 months.
All of the Scandinavian countries require registration with public offices that connect job seekers with employers and retrain workers into high-demand industries. Denmark, for instance, staffs 190 such offices. They offer computer training and rsum review, and even help place unemployed workers into temporary positions, filling in for employees who leave for educational sabbaticals and parents on maternity or paternity leave.
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Benefits: 60 to 85 percent of prior income
For how long? One year to indefinitely
Life on the dole: Second to Scandinavia come Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In Luxembourg, a single, unemployed worker gets 80 percent of her income, up to 250 percent of the minimum wage — currently more than 1,300 ($1,690) a month. The Netherlands shells out up to 168 ($218) a day and provides Dutch-as-a-second-language programs and short-term work placements for the unemployed. Belgium offers 60 percent of salary for an indefinite amount of time — distributed by separate Flemish and French offices, naturally. The country also offers cash and retraining to recent university graduates having trouble finding work in the declining job market.
The government of Luxembourg, however, has recently grown fed up with wastrel youths applying for unemployment benefits while still living with their parents. Anyone applying for social benefits now has to take minimum-wage government jobs or attend subsidized vocational training instead.
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Benefits: 70 to 80 percent of prior income
For how long? 400 to 520 days
Life on the dole: The Swiss government metes out generous weekly checks from unemployment pools to avoid anyone taking a lump sum and fleeing the country (depositing in a Swiss bank account, perhaps?). In 1997, the country began requiring districts to fund job-retraining courses and offices to aid job seekers. Those who miss their classes can forfeit up to a months unemployment benefits.
And it isnt just the unemployed who benefit from the Swiss states generosity. If you find a job that pays less than two thirds of your prior salary, the government will subsidize your wages. Despite the generosity of its benefits, the country maintains a low rate of unemployed and underemployed workers. Switzerland also does one of the worlds best jobs at keeping tabs on its social assistance figures and programs. Kept like clockwork since 1948, all stats are online.
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Benefits: 57 to 75 percent of prior income
For how long? Up to three years
Life on the dole: If youre fired in France, expect a weekly benefit check if you were a salaried employee who worked six months out of the past 22. The country scales its payouts depending on how long the worker paid into a national unemployment insurance fund; checks average 1,100 ($1,430) a month. Minimum-wage workers receive 75 percent of their last paycheck; higher-income workers receive about 57 percent. France is also one of the toughest countries on Earth to get laid off in. The country requires companies to justify themselves to unions or trade commissions when they feel the need to fire workers to cut costs.
Unfortunately, because the French workforce is so cushy, it can be a very tough club to join. France has astronomically high rates of unemployment among youths — up to 40 percent in some areas — who’ve never held jobs and therefore do not qualify for benefits. This generation’ stagiaire’, or work-experience generation, of 20-somethings who accept short-term and unpaid work experiences to remain active has taken to the streets in protest in past years.
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Benefits: 50 to 80 percent of prior income
For how long? Six months to a year
Life on the dole: The countrys unemployment benefits calculation works like a Rube Goldberg machine, involving length of employment, age of the worker, non-bonus pretax income, and a number of other data points. If a worker can muddle through the paperwork, though, he may receive between 50 and 80 percent of salary, for up to six months. Workers are supported even longer if their industry is deemed to be in decline.
Japan also offers other perks, such as retraining and unemployment health insurance. The Ministry of Labors employment bureau, called — really — Hello Work, has bolstered these benefits since the financial crisis took hold. It now subsidizes public housing for the laid-off, many of whom had been receiving housing as part of their compensation. It has also shortened the minimum time a worker needs to pay into the system to become eligible. Still, Japans safety net has a huge hole. It excludes most temporary and short-contract workers, who now make up more than 30 percent of the workforce. Theyre completely out of luck.
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