Monday, June 28, 2010

The joy of the welfare state

The German publication Bild focuses on Arno Duebel, who at 36 [!] years and running is Germany's longest unemployed person. This piece describes a typical day and this piece his encounter with active labor market policy.

The actual mystery, though, is not the existence of someone like Arno, but rather, given the relative generosity of many European welfare states, their relative scarcity. The fact of the matter is that most people actually like to work, even at jobs that many academics might (implicitly and with a lot of jargon) sneer at. Understanding this behavior at a deeper level would do much to improve both labor economics and labor market policy.

As an aside to readers who may not be familiar with it, Bild is a sort of strange mix of People, the National Enquirer and Sports Illustrated. Reading it in a public place sends a strong social signal.

Hat tip: Lars Skipper


don said...

He's 54 and has been unemployed for 36 years, so he has not been employed since he was 18. Given the other details (never had a girlfriend, smoking 5 packs a day, rigidly repetitive life style) I wonder if in the US he'd be described as "disabled" rather than "unemployed". It does not appear that he has ever been employable.

econjeff said...

To actually receive disability benefits, he would have to at least effectively portray an illness that prevents "substantial gainful activity". I think that would be hard for him to do, though perhaps those doctor notes mentioned in the article claim some sort of hard-to-verify condition like back problems.

don said...

I was thinking of mental disability rather than a physical one. His behavior, for his entire adult life, has not been that of a functioning adult.