It is customary in many parts of the world for businesses to pay what’s called a thirteenth salary. This means that workers get an extra check in December equal to one month of pay. The thirteenth salary is required by law in countries like Brazil and Italy and required by collective bargaining agreements in countries like Germany and Austria.
Some American employers pay out end-of-year bonuses, though not many. According to the Society of Human Resources, just 24 percent of companies provide end-of-year, nonperformance-based bonuses. The BLS says around 42 percent of workers receive bonuses of some type, though not necessarily at the end of the year. In general, according to BLS, “bonus pay is mostly a feature of high-wage managerial and sales occupations.”
I think it would be nice if we followed the lead of other countries and also created a regime that ensured everyone received an end-of-year holiday bonus. This bonus would not need to be in the form of a mandated thirteenth salary. Instead, it could come as a universal payment made by the government.
Imagine how much people would enjoy receiving, say, $300 on December 1 of each year, money that could be spent on gifts, travel, and food during the holiday season. Every holiday season, local news is full of stories of poor children who must go without and various colorful characters who provide a small number of them relief from that misery. The universal holiday bonus could ensure no child goes without.
Such a program would also be an entry point into a broader cash benefit system, such as those contemplated by advocates of a child allowance and a universal basic income. Getting people signed up and comfortable with cash payments will be necessary to ever get those kinds of programs off the ground and the universal holiday bonus offers a fun and joyous way to make strides in that direction.