This book springs from the knowledge that many people are worried about unemployment, concerned about the attendant loss of income, and anxious about their ability to sustain the standard of living to which they have become accustomed. Public programs that provide temporary income support during periods of unemployment can ease the anxiety and concerns associated with joblessness. Yet, unemployment protection programs themselves lead to other worries: adequacy of program benefits, costs of administration, disincentive effects, the extent of coverage, and potential long-term dependency. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it does highlight various concerns about unemployment protection programs. It is understandable that such programs should conjure up these worries. The challenge is to find successful compromise between the competing sets of concerns. The responses to these concerns differ in individual countries, but the responses reflect deliberate policy choices.
This book examines unemployment compensation (UC) throughout the world. Unemployed workers in many countries receive cash payments from UC programs. Such benefits provide income support for temporary periods, replacing part of the loss of earnings caused by unemployment. Unemployment compensation is a long-established social protection program that is present in most of the world's major geographic areas. At the start of the twenty-first century, approximately 70 countries have UC programs.
While the subject has been discussed in a multitude of articles and books, several recent developments have led to institutional changes in the world economy, commonly described as globalization. With such changes comes new information and new insight. Three important developments call for a general assessment of the current state of international UC. First, the number of countries with UC increased sharply in the 1990s with the introduction of new programs in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and in the successor states of the former Soviet Union (FSU).