Human resources in science and technology

From Statistics Explained

Data from December 2013, most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article provides information on human resources in science and technology (HRST) statistics which improve the understanding of the demand for and the supply of people with high qualifications in science and technology. They describe the current stock of HRST in the European Union (EU), the candidate countries and EFTA countries. They also give information on the current and future supply of highly skilled people from universities and other education institutions into the HRST stocks.

Figure 1: HRST by occupation, 2012 (%)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_nocc)

Investment in research, development, education and skills constitutes a key policy area for the EU as these are elements essential to economic growth and to the development of a knowledge-based economy, leading to an increasing interest in the role and measurement of skills. In this context, the need to measure and analyse the most highly skilled part of the labour force has increased, both within the EU and internationally.

The HRST statistics focus on two main aspects:

  • stocks, about the characteristics of the current labour force involved in science and technology;
  • flows showing the job-to-job mobility and the inflow from education to the science and technology labour force; particular attention is paid to scientists and engineers, who are often the innovators at the centre of technology-led development.

Main statistical findings

Figure 2: The 25 NUTS 2 regions with the highest shares of HRST core in the active population, 2012 (%)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_rcat)
Figure 3: HRST aged 25-64 years old, by age groups, 2012 (%)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_ncat)
Figure 4: The 20 NUTS 1 regions with the highest shares of women working in science and technology occupations (HRSTO), 2012 (%)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_rsex)
Figure 5: HRST categories

Professionals and technicians employed in science and technology occupations

More than 73 million people in the EU-28 were employed in science and technology occupations in 2012. This made up almost one-third of the active population. Six Member States (Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) accounted for around 50 % of the human resources in science and technology by occupation (HRSTO) employed as 'technicians' in the EU.

At EU-27 level, the ‘professionals’ and the ‘technicians’ accounted for 54.6 % and 45.6 % respectively in 2012. However, there were large differences between Member States. Greece, with 70.0 %, reported by far the highest share of highly-qualified professionals among HRSTO. Other Member States with more than 65 % professionals were Romania (68.0 %), Lithuania (67.7%), Bulgaria and Ireland (66.5%), the United Kingdom (66.2%) and Luxembourg (65.0 %). Among the sub-group of ‘professionals’ there is a special category of interest, ‘scientists and engineers’, which includes persons employed in ‘physical, mathematical and engineering’ occupations as well as ‘life science and health’ occupations (see Figure 1).

In 2012, the share of scientists and engineers among those employed in science and technology occupations (HRSTO) was 22 % in the EU-28 as a whole. Ireland (31.6 %) and Romania (29.3%) topped the list, well ahead of the other Member States. In absolute numbers, the largest group of scientists and engineers was found in Germany with approximately 3 million, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Poland and Italy. These Member States together employed 71.0 % of all the scientists and engineers in the European Union.

Within the professionals group, Ireland (47.5 %), Finland (45.2%) and Germany (44.6%) had the highest shares of scientists and engineers. However, many other countries also recorded shares of 40 % or more, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Romania, France and Spain.

Regional characteristics of highly-educated individuals in S&T occupations

The stock of human resources in science and technology can be used as an indicator of the development of the knowledge-based economy. The core group of HRST, the so-called 'HRST core', is made up of people who both have a university-level degree and are working in a science and technology occupation. The HRST core is central to the development of knowledge and technological innovation.

The HRST core category is normally concentrated in capitals and the regions around them, in regions with key universities and research institutions and as well as in regions where large enterprises have set up their headquarters and main research units. Regional data on the HRST core are available for the EU Member States, the candidate countries and the EFTA countries. In 2012, 14 of the 25 regions with the highest shares of HRST core in their labour force were capital regions (see Figure 2). The capital region of the United Kingdom, Inner London, topped the list with 39.7% HRST core in its labour force. It was followed by Luxembourg (35.6%), Oslo og Akershus (34.5%), the Danish capital Copenhagen (Hovedstaden, 33.3 %) and Helsinki (FI).

A number of regions with key universities and research centres can also be found in the top list, including the Oost-Vlaanderen region in Belgium, Utrecht in the Netherlands and Midi-Pyrénées in France. The Nordic countries are well represented, with 4 of the top 25 regions.

Senior human resources in science and technology

The EU population is getting older. This is also true for the human resources in science and technology. The senior HRST are amongst the most experienced and knowledgeable in the field of science and technology; their knowledge is important for driving research and innovation in Europe forwards.

In 2012, there were over 100 million people aged from 25 to 64 in the EU-28 HRST. Of these, 42 million were ‘senior’ HRST, i.e. between 45 and 64 years old. This corresponded to 42.3 % of the HRST in the EU. The share of HRST aged 25–34 in the EU-28 was 28.7 %.

Among the Member States, Croatia had the largest share of ‘senior’ HRST with 56.9 %. Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Estonia had at least 45 % of ‘senior’ HRST (see Figure 3). At the other end of the scale, Turkey (23.6%), Romania (30.8%) and Malta (31.7%) had the lowest shares of ‘senior’ HRST among the Member States. At the EU level, there were 28 million people aged 25–34 in the HRST category in 2012, corresponding to about 28.7 % of the total HRST aged 25–64.

Women in science and technology

The Europe 2020 strategy aims to make the EU a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy that delivers high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. Innovation, as a motor for economic progress, is a key element of the strategy. Increasing the human resources employed in science and technology is part of the initiatives to strengthen innovation. In this context, it is vital to make better use of the resources and the qualifications of highly-skilled women in science and technological innovation. In most Member States, there are at least as many women as men in university level education, and the number of female doctorate students increases more rapidly than the number of male doctorate students.

When analysing the employment of human resources in science and technology in terms of occupation by NUTS 1 regions, the highest shares of women employed in science and technology occupations in 2012 were found in the Baltic Member States: Lithuania topped the list with 68.3 %, followed by Estonia (63.9%), the region of Severna i iztochna Bulgaria (63.8 %), and Latvia (63.2 %). High shares of women in science and technology jobs were also found in the ‘new’ Member States in Central and Eastern Europe. The list of the top 20 regions includes all regions in both Poland and Bulgaria, 2 of the 3 regions in Hungary and 2 of the 4 regions in Romania. The only candidate country (and at the same time the only EFTA country) to make the top 20 list was Iceland (see Figure 4).

In 2011, the vast majority of women in science and technology occupations were working in services: this number was approximately 41 million, compared to only 3 million in manufacturing at the EU-28 level. Overall, women dominated science and technology employment in the services sector.
The situation is completely different in the manufacturing sector. At EU-28 level, women constituted only 26.7 % of the HRSTO working in this sector. Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania were the only countries to report a share of 50 % or more female HRSTO employed in the manufacturing sector.

Data sources and availability

The data on stocks (workforce) and flows (job-to-job mobility) are obtained from the EU Labour force survey. The data on education inflows are obtained from the UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat questionnaire on education. Both surveys are carried out by the national statistical institutes and the results forwarded to Eurostat.


For producing HRST statistics, Eurostat uses harmonised concepts, methods and definitions according to the Manual on the Measurement of Human Resources devoted to Science and Technology, the Canberra Manual, jointly written by OECD, UNESCO, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Directorate General for Research and Innovation and Eurostat of the European Commission. The text was discussed at specialist workshops at the OECD and then submitted to the Group of National Experts on Science and Technology Indicators (NESTI). The Canberra manual is the fifth in the 'Frascati family' - a collection of NESTI documents.

In this manual, highly-skilled human resources are described as essential for the development and flow of knowledge and as forming the crucial link between technological progress and economic growth, social development and environmental well-being. Countries and international organizations highlighted the political and economical importance of a need for internationally comparable, harmonized and high quality data on human resources.

The data on stocks and flows (both job-to-job mobility and inflows from education) are the main statistics of HRST. Although the stocks and job-to-job mobility statistics have a different source than the education inflow to HRST, their methodologies are linked.

Human resources in science and technology (HRST) are defined as persons fulfilling at least one of the following two conditions (see Figure 5):

  • human resources in terms of education: individuals who have successfully completed a university level education;
  • human resources in terms of occupation: individuals who are employed in a science and technology occupation as ‘Professionals’ or ‘Technicians and associate professionals’.

The group that fulfils both of these criteria is called the HRST core.

Stocks and job-to-job mobility

Data used on stocks and mobility of HRST are taken from Eurostat's Labour force survey database. The data on HRST stocks relate to the employment status, the occupation and the education of individuals. HRST stocks and flows statistics are broken down by gender, age, region, sector of economic activity, occupation, educational level, fields of education, nationality and country of birth. However, not all combinations are possible.
The analysis of HRST mobility casts light on two different aspects: the job-to-job mobility of employed HRST and the international mobility of the HRST core. Job-to-job mobility is defined as the movement of a person from one job to another from one year to the next. It does not include inflows into the labour market from unemployment or inactivity.

Education inflow

HRST education inflow data come from Eurostat's Education database. They are collected via the UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat (UOE) joint questionnaire on education. National statistical institutes or Ministries for Education compile the national data, in many cases taken from administrative registers.
The education inflow data give a good measure of the current and future supply of HRSTE. The inflows can be divided into specific groups, each providing a different focus; the annual data on actual inflows (‘graduation’; i.e. students completing a university level study) and potential inflows (‘participation’; i.e. students in higher education) from the education system into the HRST stocks.
Even though the official definition of HRST in the Canberra Manual contains 'S' and 'T’, the definition is not restricted to science and technology in the strict sense. HRST by education covers all fields of study, i.e. anybody who successfully completed a tertiary level education.

Comparability of concepts and data

The statistics on the stock and mobility of human resources in science and technology (HRST) can be compared to and combined with Eurostat’s Labour force survey statistics and part of the high-tech statistics; they all have the same source, EU Labour force survey (LFS), and the processing errors are thought to be insignificant. However, users should pay close attention to concepts and definitions if they compare or combine HRST statistics with statistics from other domains and/or sources.
For example, ‘Total HRST’ should not be compared with total employment, as the total stock of HRST also covers unemployed and inactive HRST. If one needs to make such comparisons, one might use either the ‘HRST in terms of occupation” or the ‘HRST core’ sub-groups, or use a HRST table that is explicit in only containing HRST who are employed.
Comparability between HRST stock and mobility statistics and the HRST education inflow statistics should be done very carefully, as the original sources for these statistics have totally different methodology. For example, a HRST table that shows the field of education cannot be compared to a table showing employed HRST; only ‘HRST in terms of education” contain the education dimension – not all employed HRST have a university level education.


Europe 2020

Investment in research, development, education and skills is one of the European Union’s central policy areas. These key areas are essential to economic growth and to the development of the knowledge-based economy. The Europe 2020 strategy sets out a vision of Europe's social market economy for the 21st century. It aims to turn the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy that delivers high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. Innovation is a motor for economic progress: it is therefore a key element of Europe 2020.

Europe 2020 puts forward three priorities that go together and reinforce each other:

  • smart growth: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation;
  • sustainable growth: promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy;
  • inclusive growth: fostering a high-employment economy, delivering social and geographical cohesion.

Innovation Union

The European Commission has defined seven flagship initiatives to create progress under the Europe 2020 strategy. One of these is the "Innovation Union", supporting ‘Smart growth’. The Innovation Union initiative improves the framework for research and innovation in the EU. It also improves the access to finance. The aim is to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.

A key element of the Innovation Union is to complete the European Research Area (ERA). ERA aims to increase the competitiveness of European research institutions by bringing them together and encouraging a more inclusive way of work. Increased mobility of knowledge workers and deeper co-operation among EU research institutions are central goals of ERA.

ERA should inspire the best talents to enter research careers in Europe and stimulate industry to invest more in European research. It enables European researchers to develop strong links with partners around the world, so that Europe benefits from the progress of knowledge worldwide, contributes to global development and takes a leading role in international initiatives to solve global issues.

However, there are still national and institutional barriers which limit the development of ERA. In 2008, the European Commission and the Member States launched new initiatives to develop ERA, including the ‘Ljubljana Process’ to improve the political governance of ERA. Several initiatives on specific areas have been initiated. These initiatives aim at establishing partnerships with Member States and business, universities and research organizations to develop the ERA in their specific field.

One of these five new initiatives intends to create a European Partnership for Researchers for mobility and career development. Improving the mobility of researchers will improve the flow of knowledge throughout Europe, balance demand and supply for researchers at the European level, help create centres of excellence and improve the skills of researchers in Europe. Improving career prospects for researchers in Europe will stimulate more young people to choose a research career, help keep researchers in Europe and attract more talented non-European researchers.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Human Resources in Science & Technology (t_hrst)
Human resources in science and technology as a share of labour force - Total (tsc00025)
Doctorate students in science and technology fields - Total (tsc00028)
Human resources in science and technology (HRST), by NUTS 2 region (tgs00038)


Human Resources in Science & Technology (hrst)
Stocks of HRST at the national and regional levels; unemployment for HRST and non-HRST (hrst_st)
Flows of HRST at the national level: Education inflows and job-to-job mobility (hrst_fl)

Dedicated section

Other information

  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 995/2012 of 26 October 2012 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology (Legal text)
  • Decision 1608/2003/EC concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology (Legal text)

External links