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Would higher unemployment benefits reduce poverty?

Discuss whether or not an increase in unemployment benefit payments would reduce poverty.


CIE May/June 2023




Unemployment benefit payments are a critical component of social welfare policies designed to provide financial assistance to individuals who are out of work and actively seeking employment. The debate surrounding the effectiveness of increasing unemployment benefit payments as a means to reduce poverty has been a topic of discussion among policymakers, economists, and the general public. In this essay, I will explore both sides of the argument by examining the potential benefits and drawbacks of increasing unemployment benefit payments in the context of poverty reduction.

Heading 1: Potential Benefits of Increasing Unemployment Benefit Payments

Raising incomes of those on low incomes: By increasing unemployment benefit payments, individuals who are experiencing financial hardship due to job loss can receive additional financial support, thereby raising their overall income levels.

Enabling purchase of basic necessities: Increased benefit payments can enable recipients to afford basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare, thereby alleviating financial strain and reducing poverty.

Reduction of absolute poverty: A rise in unemployment benefit payments can contribute to a reduction in absolute poverty by providing a safety net for individuals and families facing economic hardships.

Boost in total demand: Higher benefit payments can lead to an increase in consumer spending, which in turn can stimulate economic activity and generate demand for goods and services, potentially reducing unemployment rates.

Enhancing employability: Individuals receiving higher benefit payments may have the opportunity to pursue education or training, improving their skills and prospects for future employment.

Heading 2: Potential Drawbacks of Increasing Unemployment Benefit Payments

Disincentive to find employment: Critics argue that increasing benefit payments may create a disincentive for individuals to actively seek employment, as they may become reliant on continuous financial support.

Dependency on benefits: Overreliance on unemployment benefits can lead to a cycle of dependency, where individuals become accustomed to receiving benefits rather than actively engaging in the labor market.

Limited impact on all low-income groups: Some individuals, such as the retired or those who are unable to work due to illness, may not benefit from an increase in unemployment benefit payments, limiting the overall effectiveness in reducing poverty.

Failure to address relative poverty: While increasing benefit payments may help alleviate absolute poverty, it may not necessarily address the underlying issues contributing to relative poverty, such as income inequality and social exclusion.

Opportunity cost: Allocating resources towards increasing benefit payments may divert funding away from other social programs, such as education and healthcare, which could potentially be more effective in addressing poverty in the long term.


In conclusion, the debate over whether increasing unemployment benefit payments would effectively reduce poverty involves weighing the potential benefits against the drawbacks. While higher benefit payments can provide immediate relief to those in need and stimulate economic activity, there are concerns regarding long-term implications such as dependency and opportunity costs. It is crucial for policymakers to carefully consider these factors and strike a balance between providing adequate support to individuals in need and implementing measures that promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction strategies.






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