Unemployment compensation programs provide an important source of income support to many unemployed persons and families throughout the world. We have argued that the 70 countries with UC programs vary in terms of macroeconomic performance, particularly unemployment rates, and in access to UC benefits and payment levels. While some problems are common to countries in all regions, other problems are much more pronounced in particular regions: unusually long benefit duration in OECD-20, CEE, and FSU countries; ensuring protection against inflation in South American countries; and effective implementation of new UC programs in Asian and CEE-FSU economies.
The challenge has been to identify the common developments and to draw attention to the differences in UC programs throughout the world. During the course of our investigation, we have identified several problem areas. While we do not have all (or even most of) the answers, we do believe we have been asking the right questions and suggesting useful solutions.
This volume provides a broad perspective of the evolution of unemployment since 1970 and the establishment of labor market surveys across a global spectrum of 150 countries. We described the contrasts in unemployment between the geographic regions of the world. Unemployment rates increased in the OECD-20 countries in the mid-1970s and again in the early 1980s; they remain persistently high. Unemployment rates in the transition economies of CEE and FSU countries have been persistently high since the collapse of the Soviet regime. In contrast, average unemployment rates have historically been low for most of the Asian countries.
Over time, there has been an increase in the prevalence of LFSs. In 1999, 55 percent of the 150 countries conducted these surveys. While all OECD-20 and South American countries have an LFS, there are relatively few surveys in Sub-Saharan Africa. As well as providing information on labor market outcomes, these surveys can also be helpful in assessing access to benefits paid by UC programs.