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Does lower government spending raise joblessness?

Discuss whether or not a decrease in government spending will increase unemployment.


CIE October/November 2023.



Title: Effects of Government Spending Reduction on Unemployment Rates

Introduction and Definitions:

The correlation between government spending and unemployment is a subject matter critical to understanding Keynesian economic theory. Government spending refers to the aggregate expenditure on goods and services at every level of government. Unemployment, on the other hand, represents the number of individuals actively seeking employment but unable to find work. The relationship between government spending and unemployment rates is complex, nuanced, and multifaceted, and involves direct implications on economic parameters such as inflation, net exports, and total demand.

Potential Increase in Unemployment Due to Decreased Government Spending:

A potential reason that decreased government spending might increase unemployment is a reduction in funding allocated towards education and training. The resultant decrease in skills and qualifications could indeed hamper labour productivity, thereby creating a surge in structural unemployment. Additionally, when the government slashes expenditure on public sector wages, employees may feel demotivated, causing them to resign voluntarily and enlarge the unemployment pool.

Moreover, if the government allocates lesser funds for disseminating information about job vacancies, frictional unemployment (time spent searching for a job) could rise due to the inefficiency in the job market. Lastly, overall demand might dwindle with lesser government spending, leading to cyclical unemployment, where unemployment rises during economic downturns, mainly due to a decrease in aggregate demand.

Conversely, Decreased Government Spending Could Stabilize or Reduce Unemployment:

Nevertheless, the correlation between decreased government spending and unemployment is not always positive. For instance, reduced governmental expenditure could potentially curb inflation, thereby making products more competitive internationally and increasing net exports. This can lead to job creation and thus counteract unemployment.

A cutback on unemployment benefits could also diminish frictional unemployment, as it compels people to accept jobs at a faster rate. Reduced government spending could pave the way for slashed taxes, stimulating consumer spending and investment, thereby leaving total demand and unemployment rates largely unaffected. Lastly, the effectiveness in the use of decreased funds could play a role in maintaining employment levels. If, for instance, the government is able to efficiently channel limited resources towards fostering skills required to fill vacancies, it could counteract the detrimental impacts of decreased spending.


In economic theory, the assumption that reduced government expenditure inevitably results in increased unemployment is overly simplistic. Though a realistic outcome in some instances, the key determinant lies in the government's efficiency in utilizing an optimized budget. To prevent a surge in unemployment rates, the government needs to accurately identify the relevant economic sectors for targeted spending and policy development, ensuring more defined skilling and re-skilling programs, strategic and timely economic stimulus, and an efficient labour market.






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