, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 305–326 | Cite as

Unemployment insurance in unionized labor markets with mobile workers: neither Ghent nor centralized

  • David Saha
  • Ronnie SchöbEmail author
Original Paper


This paper analyzes unemployment insurance (UI) schemes in the presence of mobile workers and trade unions at industry or country level that are capable of internalizing the effect of wage demands on UI contribution rates. We compare two types of existing UI systems. When UI is organized at trade union level (decentralized Ghent UI), trade unions strategically lower the benefit levels of their UI schemes to deter welfare recipients from other unions from entering their UI scheme, leading to a race to the bottom in UI provision. With centralized provision of UI, by contrast, trade unions do not fully account for the cost of higher wages as mobility allows them to partially shift the burden of unemployment to other UIs. A system of coordinated UI, combining a centrally set benefit level with decentralized funding as in Ghent UI systems, can circumvent both the strategic benefit setting and the fiscal externality problems, thus reconciling the equity and efficiency aims in the design of unemployment insurance.


Unemployment insurance Ghent system Trade unions 



We would like to thank Thomas Aronsson, Friedrich Heinemann and Marcel Thum and an anonymous referee for valuable comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Berlin EconomicsBerlinGermany
  2. 2.School of Business & EconomicsFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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