Subsidies on low-skilled workers' social security contributions: the case of Belgium

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Dagsvik, J.K., Z. Jia, K. Orsini and G. van Camp




Empirical Economics

Vol 40, 779-806


In recent decades, many “Making Work Pay” policies have been implemented in OECD countries. These policies aim at improving the financial incentives for work, while maintaining high levels of social protection. Examples include the Earned Income Tax Credit in the USA and the Working Families’ Tax Credit in the UK. While these policies are proven to be quite effective with respect to poverty alleviation, many worry that they may discourage labor supply on the intensive margin. We consider an alternative measure implemented in Belgium: the Workbonus, which subsidizes social security contributions for low-skilled workers. This program differs from other measures in that the eligibility and the level of the subsidy are based on full-time equivalent earnings. The instrument therefore distinguishes between low skill and low effort and avoids the above-mentioned disincentive effect. We assess the effects of the Workbonus on labor supply using a particular discrete-choice labor supply model, in which individuals are assumed to choose among jobs belonging to individual-specific latent choice sets. In particular, we compare the Workbonus with a tax credit system temporarily implemented in Belgium in 2001–2004. Results show that both measures have a positive impact on labor supply. However, the Workbonus is more efficient in terms of cost per additional full-time equivalent position created and avoids the “part-time trap” implicit in the tax credit system.


H21 - H24 - H31 - J22


Tax and benefit systems - Microsimulation - Labor supply - Structural modeling


Oppdragsgiver: Arbeids- og inkluderingsdepartementet
Oppdragsgivers prosjektnr.:
Frisch prosjekt: 1307 - Strategic centre programme on pension research