The EU in the world - labour market
From Statistics Explained
- Data from February 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2015.
The article focuses on labour market statistics in the European Union (EU) and in the 15 non-EU countries from the Group of Twenty (G20). It covers key indicators on employment and unemployment and gives an insight into the European labour market in comparison with the major economies in the rest of the world, such as its counterparts in the so-called Triad — Japan and the United States — and the BRICS composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
Main statistical findings
The activity rate in Russia of 68.7 % was the second highest in 2012 among G20 members, behind the 71.7 % rate recorded for the EU-28
The labour force in the EU-28 in 2012 was composed of around 243 million persons aged 15–64 of whom 217 million were in employment. The activity rate is the share of economically active persons in the total population and in 2012 this ratio stood at 71.7 % for the EU-28. The employment rate is calculated as the share of employed persons in the total population of working-age and was 64.1 % in 2012 in the EU-28 — see Table 1.
Particular care should be taken when comparing labour market data between different countries, given there are often differences in the age criteria used to calculate activity and employment rates. Furthermore, care should be taken if the most recent data are not for the same year, as is the case in most of the analyses presented in this article. The global financial and economic crisis impacted strongly on labour markets and this can be seen clearly in employment and unemployment indicators. For example, the employment rate for the EU-28 peaked at 65.7 % in 2008, dropped to 64.5 % in 2009 and further still to 64.0 % in 2010, before recovering slightly to reach 64.1 % in 2011 and 2012.
Among the G20 members, the activity rate among persons aged 15 or more was just below 50 % in Turkey. At the other end of the scale, the Russian rate of 68.7 % was the second highest, below the 71.7 % activity rate recorded for the EU-28.
The activity rate of men was higher than the corresponding rate for women in all G20 members, in other words, a greater proportion of the male population was active in the labour force than the proportion of the female population. Only in Canada was the difference between male and female activity rates less than 10 percentage points. The gender difference was over 30 percentage points in Indonesia and Mexico, reached 41 percentage points in Turkey and peaked at 57 percentage points in Saudi Arabia.
The high gender difference in Indonesia was, in part, due to a particularly high activity rate for men (84.4 %). Mexico, the EU-28 and Saudi Arabia had the next highest male activity rates, all between 75 % and 80 %. Most of the other G20 members recorded male activity rates between 70 % and 75 %, with Argentina’s male activity rate of 65.6 % and South Africa’s rate of 61.7 % below this range.
By contrast, the high gender differences in Saudi Arabia and Turkey reflected exceptionally low female activity rates in these countries, 20.3 % in Saudi Arabia and 29.0 % in Turkey. For the remaining G20 members, female activity rates ranged from 42.7 % in Argentina to 58.8 % in Australia, with Canada (62.2 %), Russia (63.3 %) and the EU-28 (65.5 %) above this range.
The relative position of G20 members in terms of their employment rates was similar to that for activity rates: note that the different reference years for China resulted in a higher employment rate than activity rate. The largest disparity was recorded in South Africa, where the employment rate was just 41.0 %, some 13.8 percentage points below the activity rate; this was the lowest employment rate among the G20 members. South Korea, Japan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia recorded employment rates that were particularly close to their activity rates, indicating relatively low unemployment.
Figure 3 focuses on a particular part of the working-age population, namely persons aged 15–24. Although this age group is considered to be part of the working-age population, many young people are not part of the labour force because they are involved in other activities, notably secondary or tertiary education or compulsory military or social service. In comparison with the activity rates presented in Table 1, gender differences in activity rates were lower for the younger population than for the whole population in each of the G20 members (for which data are available). In fact, for South Korea, China, Japan and Canada the female activity rate among young persons was higher than the male activity rate in 2010. The gender difference in the activity rate for younger persons was over 20 percentage points in India, Mexico, Turkey and Indonesia and between 10 and 20 percentage points in Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, while in the EU-28 there was a difference of 5.9 percentage points (2012 data).
Employment rates for the remainder of the working-age population, namely persons aged 25–64 years, are analysed in Figure 4. This compares the employment rates for two sub-groups of persons in this age range, namely those with at most a lower secondary education and those with at most an upper secondary (ISCED level 3A) education. Among the 12 G20 members in the figure, nearly all recorded a lower employment rate for the sub-group of persons with at most a lower secondary level of education, the exceptions being in Turkey and Brazil where the rates for the two sub-groups were close. In the remaining nine members, employment rates for persons with at most lower secondary education were lower, the difference exceeding 10 percentage points in France, Canada, Italy, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom.
Employment by working status
In the EU-28 in 2012, some 83.4 % of persons in employment were paid employees
Among the 217 million persons aged 15–74 in employment in the EU-28 in 2012, around five in every six (83.4 %) were wage and salary earners, in other words paid employees; the remainder were mainly self-employed persons (including employers), while family workers (who are not paid employees) made up 1.5 % of total employment. An analysis by working status shows very different patterns across the G20 members, with only Canada and South Africa reporting a similar share of employees as that observed for the EU-28.
The United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia stand out with very high shares of paid employees, in excess of 90 %, with Australia just below this share; at the other end of the ranking, around two thirds of persons in employment were paid employees in Brazil and Mexico, this share falling closer to three fifths in Turkey and below one third in Indonesia. The self-employed accounted for more than two fifths of all persons in employment in Indonesia and more than one fifth in Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea and Argentina, but less than one tenth in Japan, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia. In many G20 members, a relatively small proportion of employment is made up of family workers, sometimes less than 1 % of the total workforce and generally not more than 3 %. Nevertheless, family workers contributed 5.3 % of total employment in South Korea, 6.2 % in Mexico, 13.2 % in Turkey and 17.3 % in Indonesia.
Unemployment levels and rates
The unemployment rate increased most strongly in the United States, more than doubling from 4.6 % in 2007 to 9.6 % by 2010
Unemployed persons are those without work, but actively searching work. The unemployment rate is calculated as the number of unemployed persons as a proportion of the labour force (comprising all employed and unemployed persons). In 2012, the number of unemployed persons in the EU-28 was 25.5 million, equivalent to an unemployment rate of 10.5 %. Among the G20 members, the unemployment rate ranged from 4.1 % in China to 10.5 % in the EU-28, with South Korea (3.2 %) below this range and South Africa (25.1 %) considerably above it.
In the EU-28, male and female unemployment rates were relatively similar, 10.4 % for men and 10.6 % for women in 2012; this pattern was also observed in Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States. In G20 countries where there was a larger difference between unemployment rates for men and women it was generally the rate for women that was highest, notably in Saudi Arabia, but also in India, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and, to a lesser extent, Turkey.
A comparison for 12 G20 members indicates that unemployment rates in 2011 were generally higher among persons who had at most completed lower secondary education than among those with at most an upper secondary (ISCED level 3A) education; the only exceptions to this were South Korea, Brazil and Mexico where the rates were very similar — see Figure 5. The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, France and Canada all reported relatively high unemployment rates for persons with at most lower secondary education.
An analysis comparing youth and adult unemployment rates is presented in Figure 6. It should be remembered that a large share of persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years are outside the labour market, for example, young people are more likely to be studying full-time and therefore are not available for work, while some may undertake other activities outside of the labour market, such as travel. All G20 members shown in the figure recorded a higher youth unemployment rate than adult unemployment rate. The largest differences between youth and adult unemployment rates in 2010, both in excess of 20 percentage points, were recorded in Saudi Arabia and South Africa, while differences in excess of 10 percentage points were also recorded in Indonesia, Argentina, the EU-28, Brazil, Turkey, Russia and the United States.
Persons who have been unemployed for one year or more are considered as long-term unemployed. Prolonged periods of unemployment may be linked with reduced employability of the unemployed person, while lengthy periods of unemployment may have a sustained impact on an individual’s income and social conditions. Among the G20 members (subject to data availability, see Table 4), Mexico and South Korea reported long-term unemployment rates close to zero, while this rate reached 4.7 % in the EU-28.
Developments in the unemployment rate
In 2012 unemployment rates increased again in the EU-28 and to a lesser extent in Argentina, Australia and South Africa
The level of unemployment and the unemployment rate reflect economic developments, with unemployment generally rising after a fall in output and then falling again after output starts to increase; this lag before any reduction in unemployment rates may be quite lengthy. The time series presented in Table 5 shows the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. The unemployment rate fell or was stable in all G20 members (based on available data) in 2006 and this downward or stable path was extended into 2007 and 2008 in most cases; nevertheless, the unemployment rate for the United States and Turkey rose in 2008 by approximately 1 percentage point. In 2009, all G20 members witnessed a rise in their respective unemployment rates except for Indonesia. For 2010, the development in unemployment rates was more varied: South Africa, the EU-28 and the United States recorded further increases in their unemployment rates, while the rate fell most strongly in Turkey and Argentina. By 2011, unemployment rates appeared to have stabilised or were falling again in all G20 members but in 2012 this pattern was reversed as unemployment rates increased again in the EU-28 and to a lesser extent in Argentina, Australia and South Africa.
The impact of the global financial and economic crisis on the youth unemployment rate has attracted particular attention. Table 6 presents a time series analysis of youth unemployment rates. More recent data are available for the EU-28 and these clearly show the sharp increase in this rate in 2009 and the continued increase through until the latest reference period of 2012. Apart from Indonesia, all G20 members (China, India and Saudi Arabia, not available) recorded an increase in youth unemployment rates in 2009, the largest (in percentage point terms) being observed for the United States and Turkey. By 2010, youth unemployment rates had started to fall in several G20 members and in 2011 this rate fell in all G20 members (for which data are available) other than the EU-28 and Mexico.
Data sources and availability
The statistical data in this article were extracted during February 2014. The indicators are often compiled according to international — sometimes global — standards. Although most data are based on international concepts and definitions there may be certain discrepancies in the methods used to compile the data.
Most if not all of the indicators presented for the EU have been drawn from Eurobase, Eurostat’s online database. Eurobase is updated regularly, so there may be differences between data appearing in this publication and data that is subsequently downloaded.
G20 countries from the rest of the world
For the 15 G20 countries that are not members of the EU, the data presented have generally been extracted from a range of international sources, most notably the International Labour Organisation, the OECD as well as the United Nations Statistics Division. For some of the indicators shown a range of international statistical sources are available, each with their own policies and practices concerning data management (for example, concerning data validation, correction of errors, estimation of missing data, and frequency of updating). In general, attempts have been made to use only one source for each indicator in order to provide a comparable analysis between the countries.
Labour market statistics measure the involvement of individuals, households and businesses in the labour market, where the former generally offer their labour in return for remuneration, while the latter offer employment. Market outcomes — for example, employment, unemployment, wage levels and labour costs — of these relationships affect not only the economy, but directly the lives of practically every person.
The economically active population, also known as the labour force, is made up of employed persons and the unemployed. Employed persons include employees as well as employers, the self-employed and family workers (persons who help another member of the family to run a farm, shop or other form of business). Members of the population who are neither employed nor unemployed are considered to be economically inactive. Persons in employment are those who did any work for pay or profit or were not working but had a job from which they were temporarily absent. The amount of time spent working is not a criterion and so full-time and part-time workers are included as well as persons on temporary contracts (contracts of limited duration).
- All articles on the labour market
- All articles on the non-EU countries
- Other articles from The EU in the world
Further Eurostat information
- The EU in the world 2014
- Key figures on the enlargement countries — 2014 edition
- Labour market statistics
- Pocketbook on Euro-Mediterranean statistics — 2013 edition
- The EU in the world 2013
- The European Union and the BRIC countries
- The European Union and the African Union — 2013 edition
- The European Union and the Republic of Korea — 2012
- Earnings (t_earn), see:
- Average gross annual earnings in industry and services, by sex (tps00175)
- LFS main indicators (lfsi)
- Population, activity and inactivity - LFS adjusted series (lfsi_act)
- Population, activity and inactivity - annual averages (lfsi_act_a)
- Employment - LFS adjusted series (lfsi_emp)
- Employment (main characteristics and rates) - annual averages (lfsi_emp_a)
- Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (une)
- Unemployment rate by sex and age groups - annual average, % (une_rt_a)
- Unemployment by sex and age groups - annual average, 1 000 persons (une_nb_a)
- Long-term unemployment by sex - annual average, % (une_ltu_a)
- Population, activity and inactivity - LFS adjusted series (lfsi_act)
- LFS series - Detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
- Employment - LFS series (lfsa_emp)
- Employment by sex, age and professional status (1 000) (lfsa_egaps)
- Employment - LFS series (lfsa_emp)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- International Labour Organisation (ILO):
- United Nations Statistics Division