LONDON (AP) — Unemployment benefits across the 17-country eurozone, where joblessness has hit a new record of 10.9 percent, vary considerably. In some countries, welfare payments have been cut recently as part of austerity measures introduced to bring government spending under control.
In Spain, where almost a quarter of the adult population is without work, an unemployed person gets 70 percent of his or her monthly wage for as much as two years. That is on the high end for Europe, and highlights the continent's focus on social safety nets.
Monthly wages, however, are relatively low at an average of just over €1,000 ($1,300) a month.
Also, the Spanish government has held off cutting jobless benefits in this year's austerity budget to avoid hurting economic growth and to not heap more misery on the country's 5.6 million unemployed, many of which own homes whose value has plummeted.
Greece, on the other hand, has been forced to make the painful cuts as a condition of its international financial bailouts over the past two years.
The average unemployed Greek receives benefits for between five and 12 months, depending on how long they've held the job. But the monthly benefit payments have been cut this year and as of March stood at €360 ($470), a flat sum that is increased by 10 percent for each dependent family member.
Germany, which has Europe's largest and strongest economy, is somewhere in between. Unlike Spain, it reformed its labor market before the global financial crisis to become more competitive. It has also been able to avoid the drastic cuts Greece was forced to make.
A single unemployed German gets 60 percent of net pay, while someone with a life partner and child would get 67 percent. The benefits last for a year, after which they drop to a more subsistence-oriented €374 ($491) per month plus rent assistance and utilities.
In 2003, when the global economy was doing relatively well, Germany controversially cut long-term jobless benefits to the same level as welfare assistance. That cut costs to employers and raised incentives to work.
In the U.S., laid-off workers are generally eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment aid. The U.S. Congress set up an emergency benefits program during the recession that provides up to another 73 weeks of benefits in states with the highest unemployment rates. Checks average about $300 per week, though the amounts vary and are set by the states. Most states tie benefit levels to workers' incomes at their last jobs. To be eligible, the unemployed must have held a job for a minimum period of time, set by the states, before being laid off. They also must have lost jobs through no fault of their own. If they quit or were fired they aren't able to claim benefits.