In most states, unemployment benefits last for between 20 and 26 weeks, according to Forbes.
Professor Peter Whiteford of The Australian National University, who specialises in examining social security differences between nations, said how long benefits lasted was a key factor when making comparisons.
For example, in contrast to the US, Australia sets no limit on how long a person can receive unemployment benefits, provided they meet certain requirements, which can include actively looking for work. While other nations, such Denmark, set time limits but they can extend to many years, Whiteford says.
He says the figures compiled by the OECD are the most reliable.
The creator of the OECD Tax-Benefit Web Calculator, OECD senior economist Dr Herwig Immervol, says it’s the most direct way of comparing “what country differences in benefits and tax provisions mean for family budgets in practice”.
However, due to lags in reporting, and the fact that COVID-19 stimulus came in different waves, the 2020 modelling to date mostly excludes the impact of pandemic responses, Immervol tells us from Paris.
This is where the analysis by the UK’s Institute for Government, and Compare the Market, fills the gaps.
Unemployment benefits in the UK are traditionally relatively modest. There, people who lost their jobs last year found themselves only marginally better off than had they been retrenched pre-COVID-19.
The OECD Tax-Benefit Web Calculator shows that amid the pandemic, a newly unemployed, 40-year-old single Brit with no children, received benefits equivalent to 30% of the average wage, up from 25% in 2019. (Note this compares the average wage, not minimum).
Whiteford said housing assistance payments were also a key factor when making comparisons, because they usually formed part of, or were directly connected to, unemployment benefits. (This analysis assumes rent payments equivalent to 500 pounds a month. That’s US$625, or AUD$900, as at July 5 last year).
For example, of the total benefits received by an unemployed 40-year-old in London, about 40% comes as “housing benefits” and the remainder is split between “social assistance” and “unemployment benefits”.
“Unemployment payments alone are generally lower in the UK and New Zealand than they are in Australia,” Whiteford told Compare the Market.
“But UK and New Zealand cover much more of a person’s housing costs, so the total unemployment benefits are higher.”