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I wonder why they never mention one of these two studies?

Inactivity, Sickness and Unemployment in Great Britain: Early Analysis at the Level of Local Authorities
(Oct. 2003, pdf-file)

Great Britain (GB) has almost five times more working age sickness & incapacity benefit claimants than 3 decades ago - though (nationally) most health indicators have improved, and many claimants would prefer to work. The increase is unmatched in other European Union (EU) states and is concentrated among older, unskilled men in areas of high unemployment. GB also has a higher composite rate of unemployment and inactive sickness than either France or Germany.
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There is evidence that the relatively low ILO unemployment rate in the United Kingdom (UK) results in part from misclassification of some unemployed persons as long-term sick or disabled. True long-term joblessness in the UK is relatively high - suggesting that more appropriate benefit structures could be used to reduce inactivity.

The Diversion From `Unemployment' To `Sickness' Across British Regions And Districts
(April 2004, pdf-file)

This article explores what is probably the largest single distortion to the data - the diversion from unemployment to sickness benefits. In particular, the article presents new and up-to-date estimates of the scale of the diversion and, for the first time in a journal article, provides estimates of the size of the diversion in every region and district of Great Britain.
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The other measure of unemployment (and officially the preferred one, even though it is less often quoted) is the ILO measure derived from the Labour Force Survey. This uses the International Labour Organisation definition of unemployment which counts anyone who is out of work and wants a job, is available to start in the next two weeks, and has looked for work in the last four weeks. The ILO definition produces unemployment figures for Britain as a whole that in the last three or four years have been around half a million higher than the claimant count. In theory the ILO measure of unemployment is independent of benefit rules. In practice, because there is no requirement for IB claimants to look for work and because many think that they would not find suitable work, most IB claimants do not look for work. They therefore fail one of the ILO unemployment tests and drop out of the ILO unemployment figures as well as the claimant count.
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Table 3 also shows the numbers estimated to be part of this diversion. Across Britain as a whole it is estimated that 1,130,000 people have been diverted from unemployment to sickness benefits - 650,000 men and 470,000 women. For comparison, total claimant unemployment across Britain at the same time (August 2003) stood at just 911,000. The comparison is illuminating: it suggests that Britain has more `hidden' unemployed among sickness claimants than `visible' unemployed on the claimant count.

Or did they change the laws and regulations in the meantime? I couldn´t find anything about it. Only that the latest OECD report about that topic mentioned higher than average numbers of sickness claimants too.
If true, these reports would suggest that "real" British unemployment rates aren´t that different from France or Germany.

By the way, Jerome, don´t take them so seriously. Bad for your blood pressure. :)
But what were they to do? After collectively (FT, NYT, Economist) deciding this year that maybe Germany isn´t the sick man of Europe any longer, they naturally needed a new one to feel superior. Preferably "Old Europe", Eurozone member. Not a member of the "coalition of the willing" a bonus. And that would be France if you want to choose one of the larger EU countries.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 19th, 2007 at 08:39:14 AM EST

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