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Welfare benefits do not remove incentive to work, academics claim

University of Edinburgh study shows no link between benefits and life satisfaction.

Incapacity benefit: Widespread changes proposed

High levels of benefits for the unemployed do not lead to a lack of motivation to find work, a Europe-wide study has found.

The well-being of jobless people is not affected by the level of benefit they receive, according to the report published by the University of Edinburgh.

Researchers compared how unemployment affected people's life satisfaction in 28 countries, all European Union countries and Norway, and found there was no over-riding trend.

Dr Jan Eichhorn, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science, who wrote the report, said: "Those who claim that greater unemployment benefits lead to less motivation for people to seek employment should think again - for most people, it is not the degree of state provisions that determines how they personally feel about the experience of being unemployed.

"Unemployment does not just result in a loss of income but also a change in social position - that is perceived differently in different societies."

By using data from Eurostat, the central statistics office of the European Commission, and the European Values Study it was found that some of the countries with the most generous benefits have the greatest loss in life satisfaction for their unemployed, and vice versa.

For example, Luxembourg and Finland are in the top 25% for unemployment benefits expenditure yet have high levels of dissatisfaction in people without jobs. The reverse is true for Romania and Poland, which are in the bottom 25% for benefit provision while their unemployed are among the least affected.

It was concluded that cultural and demographic factors have a greater impact on the lives of jobless people, such as having no job in a country that has a proportionally older population and fewer people at working age.

Other factors highlighted by the report as having a negative impact on personal well-being were high inflation levels and income inequality.

The country with the highest level of dis-satisfied unemployed people was Germany, with a rate that was 50% higher than second-placed Hungary.

At the bottom of the table was Romania, which is also in the bottom 25% for benefit provision, while Spain is in the top 25% for benefits expenditure yet unemployed citizens remain relatively unaffected, with the country sitting above Romania in 27th position.

The UK is ranked in the mid 50% for the level of benefits provided to the country's unemployed and is ranked as 18th for the extent of loss in life-satisfaction of the jobless.

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