This Selected Issues paper investigates the possible contribution of activation strategies—in a broad sense—to improve employment rates in Finland. It summarizes recent labor market developments in Finland, and investigates respectively the limitation of current unemployment and disability benefit schemes. The paper identifies possible strategies to activate recipients, and focuses on strategies to boost youth employment rates. The paper also discusses the possibility of using in-work benefit systems to create incentives to work at the low-skilled end of the labor market.
In Sweden, the authorities have indicated that their medium-term fiscal strategy is based on restraining expenditures through nominal ceilings and maintaining a fiscal surplus target of 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), measured as an average over the cycle. The mission has praised the authorities’ medium-term fiscal strategy but argued that assuming that a structural surplus of 2 percent is maintained and that policy slippages on expenditures are avoided, the room for tax cuts is about 4 percent of GDP over the 2001–03 period, considerably more than envisaged by the authorities.
The characteristics of the Belgian labor market are examined using international comparisons in order to assess the government’s recent labor market initiatives. The labor market in Belgium is found to suffer from a number of structural problems compared to other industrial countries: the non-employment rate is very high, there are large regional disparities in unemployment, female and youth unemployment are prevalent and there is an unusually pronounced incidence of long-term unemployment. The causes of these problems are investigated. The empirical results, using cross section data from 15 industrial countries, show that the generosity of long-term unemployment benefits helps to explain the prevalence of long-term unemployment. Unemployment compensation also appears to be paid to many who are not actively seeking work. The recent labor market initiatives in Belgium will help to ameliorate some of the underlying problems but they are unlikely to completely address the underlying structural problems.