Social and welfare issues

How demanding are activation requirements for jobseekers?


Not all jobseekers qualify for income support. In the majority of OECD countries, fewer than 40% of jobseekers receive unemployment benefits. Entitlements usually depend on past employment and/or current household incomes ( In addition, benefit programmes typically limit support to individuals who make specific efforts to find work. These activity-related eligibility criteria aim to strengthen incentives to look for, prepare for, and accept employment. They may also serve as a targeting device to reduce demands on benefit systems, and on associated employment services. However, strict requirements can unintentionally exclude some people from financial and re-employment support, e.g., by discouraging them from applying.

This portal presents policy information that allows assessing the strictness of countries’ policies in a novel dashboard and database. It covers policy settings in OECD and EU countries and gauges policy trends over recent years, including the type of job offers that claimants need to accept, requirements for reporting on job-search efforts, obligations to participate in active labour market programmes, and sanctions for failing to meet these requirements. To facilitate comparisons, the complex policy rules are summarised into an indicator of overall “strictness”. 

Full database with information for different years and countries, and for first-tier and lower-tier programmes

Dashboard of detailed policy rules that apply in each country.


- Strictness scores in each category range from 1 (least strict) to 5 (most strict). All underlying data, including for “lower-tier” benefits such as unemployment assistance, are available through oecd.stat.

- Index components are as follows: Availability requirements' includes 4 items (availability during ALMP participation, demands on occupational mobility, demands on geographical mobility, other valid reasons for refusing job offers). 'Job-search requirements' includes 2 items (frequency of monitoring, documentation of job-search activities). ‘Sanctions' includes 5 items (sanctions for voluntary unemployment, for refusing job offers, for repeated refusals of job offers, for failures to participate in counselling or ALMPs, and for repeated failures to participate in counselling or ALMPs). The database in oecd.stat includes data for the individual items that enter the summary index.

Information on the statistical data for Israel.

- Footnote by Türkiye:  The information in this document with reference to « Cyprus » relates to the southern part of the Island. There is no single authority representing both Turkish and Greek Cypriot people on the Island. Türkiye recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Until a lasting and equitable solution is found within the context of United Nations, Türkiye shall preserve its position concerning the “Cyprus issue”.

- Footnote by all the European Union Member States of the OECD and the European Union: The Republic of Cyprus is recognized by all members of the United Nations with the exception of Türkiye. The information in this document relates to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.


DESCRIPTION OF POLICY RULES (country responses to OECD questionnaire)

By year, programme tier and policy rule/item. 'No change' indicates that country responses were identical to a previous year. Selecting a previous year will show the full response in these cases.

Download the full database (Excel file)


Activity-related eligibility conditions for receving unemployment benefits (2022)

Results in this report update and extend previous assessments of the strictness of unemployment benefit eligibility criteria for unemployment and related benefits in OECD- and EU-countries with policy information for 2022. In addition to updating results, an in-depth validation of earlier results was undertaken, with a view to improve the consistency of translating qualitative policy information into quantitative “strictness scores”, and to account for clarifications or additional information as provided by competent authorities of countries. The report provides a comprehensive inventory of such revisions for affected countries, along with their rationale.

Activity-related eligibility conditions for receiving unemployment benefits (2020) 

This report updates to 2020 previous data on activity-related eligibility criteria for unemployment and related benefits in OECD- and EU-countries. In addition to the update, the report provides new evidence on the treatment of own-account work (solo selfemployment) in the unemployment benefit system, such as any requirements for benefit claimants to seek or accept such types of employment. Finally, the report presents results from a ‘flash’ survey of initiatives that countries have taken to adapt benefit eligibility conditions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, e.g. to make benefits more accessible during the lock-down phase.

How demanding are activation requirements for jobseekers? This paper presents detailed policy rules for 2017 on activity-related eligibility criteria for unemployment and related benefits in OECD- and EU-countries for the year 2017. This complex rules are summarised into an overall policy indicator of eligibility strictness which allows to compare data across countries and over time. A novelty is the inclusion of lower-tier unemployment or social assistance benefits in the compilation of policy rules. Results document a large number of reforms enacted after the Great Recession and suggest a slight convergence of policy rules across countries even though overall measures of the strictness of activity-related eligibility criteria have remained broadly unchanged during the recent past. In countries with multiple layers of support for the unemployed, availability requirements tend to be more demanding for lower-tier assistance benefits, while sanction rules tend to be more stringent for first-tier programmes.
Does Demanding Activation Work? A Comparative analysis of the effects of unemployment benefit conditionality on employment in 21 advanced economies.

Whether or not putting the unemployed under greater pressure to seek and accept jobs really helps to raise levels of employment remains a controversially discussed question. This article shown that requiring more active job-search and availability for a wider range of jobs does indeed lead to increased employment, while no evidence for a similar positive effect of tougher sanction rules on employment is found. The data do indicate, however, that sanction rules are themselves a product of adverse labour market conditions. Interactive estimations also suggest a negative moderating influence of tough sanction rules on the effectiveness of stricter conditions, whereas more generous unemployment insurance and assistance benefits appear to strengthen the effects of stricter conditions. Overall, the results suggest that to increase employment, the treatment of the unemployed may be demanding but should not be punitive and should include supportive elements, providing claimants with the resources they need to effectively look for work.




The data and documents shown in this page were produced with the financial assistance of the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” (2014-2020). The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the OECD member countries or of the European Union.


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