Employment statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from July 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: July 2015.
Table 1: Employment rate, age group 15–64, 2003–13
(%) - Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a)
Figure 1: Employment rate, age group 15–64, 2013
(%) - Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a)
Table 2: Employment rates for selected population groups, 2003–13
(%) - Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a)
Figure 2: Employment rates by sex, age group 15–64, 2013 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a)
Figure 3: Employment rates by age group, 2013 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a)
Table 3: Employment rate by highest level of education, age group 25-64, 2013
(%) - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_ergaed)
Table 4: Annual employment growth by gender, 2003–13
(% change in the number of employed persons) - Source: Eurostat (lfsi_grt_a)
Table 5: Persons working part-time or with a second job, 2003–13
(% of total employment) - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_eppga), (lfsa_e2gis) and (lfsa_egan)
Figure 4: Persons employed part-time, age group 15–64, 2013 (1)
(% of total employment) - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_eppga)
Figure 5: Proportion of employees with a contract of limited duration, age group 15–64, 2013
(% of total employees) - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_etpga)

This article presents recent European Union (EU) employment statistics, including an analysis based on important socioeconomic dimensions: employment statistics show significant differences by sex, age and educational level attained. There are also considerable labour market disparities across EU Member States.

Labour market statistics are at the heart of many EU policies following the introduction of an employment chapter into the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997. The employment rate, in other words the proportion of the working age population that is in employment, is considered to be a key social indicator for analytical purposes when studying developments within labour markets.

Main statistical findings

Employment rates by sex, age and educational attainment

In 2013, the EU-28 employment rate for persons aged 15 to 64, as measured by the EU’s labour force survey (EU LFS), stood at 64.1 %. The EU-28 employment rate peaked in 2008 at 65.7 % and decreased during successive years to stand at 64.0 % in 2010. This decrease during the global financial and economic crisis — a total fall of 1.7 percentage points — was halted in 2011 when there was a small increase in the EU-28 employment rate, to stand at 64.2 %, after which it fell by 0.1 percentage points, remaining at 64.1 % since 2012 — see Table 1. Among the EU Member States, employment rates in 2013 reached highs in the range of 72 % to 74 % in Austria, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, peaking at 74.4 % in Sweden. At the other end of the scale, employment rates were below 60 % in eight of the EU-28 Member States, with the lowest rates being recorded in Croatia (49.2 %) and Greece (49.3 %) — see Figure 1.

Between the start of the financial and economic crisis and 2013 (the latest data available), there were considerable differences in the performances of the individual labour markets. While the overall employment rate for the EU-28 in 2013 remained 1.6 percentage points below its level of 2008, there were nine EU Member States which reported an increase in their respective rates. The biggest gains were recorded in Malta (up 5.3 percentage points) and Germany (3.2 points), while Luxembourg, Hungary and the Czech Republic each reported gains of more than 1 percentage point. By contrast, the Greek employment rate fell from 61.9 % in 2008 to just below 50 % in 2013. There were also considerable reductions — of at least 5 percentage points —between 2008 and 2013 for the employment rates of Spain, Cyprus, Croatia, Portugal, Ireland, Denmark and Slovenia.

Employment rates are generally lower among women and older workers. In 2013, the employment rate for men stood at 69.4 % in the EU-28, as compared with 58.8 % for women. A longer-term comparison shows that while the employment rate for men in 2013 was below its corresponding level 10 years earlier (70.3 % in 2003), there was a marked increase in the proportion of women in employment — rising 4.0 percentage points from 54.8 % in 2003 — see Table 2.

Male employment rates were consistently higher than those for women across all of the EU-28 Member States in 2013. Nevertheless, there were considerable disparities, as the difference between employment rates by sex was as wide as 27.1 percentage points in Malta — where the fourth lowest female employment rate (47.0 %) was recorded. Greece and Italy reported a difference of just less than 20 percentage points, with Greece reporting the lowest female employment rate (40.1 %), while the female employment rates was also less than 50 % in Croatia and Italy. Among the non-member countries shown in Table 2 Turkey recorded the largest gender difference in employment rates, the 29.6 % rate for women being 39.9 percentage points below the rate for men; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also reported relatively large differences with far higher proportions of men in employment. By contrast, there was almost no difference in employment rates by sex in Lithuania, where the female rate (62.8 %) was 1.9 percentage points lower than that for men; the difference was also relatively small in Finland (2.1 percentage points), Latvia (3.4 points) and Sweden (3.8 points); Norway also had a relatively small difference in employment rates between the sexes (3.8 points) — see Figure 2.

As with the female employment rate, there was evidence that the employment rate of older workers (aged between 55 and 64) increased at a rapid pace despite the financial and economic crisis. For the EU-28 this rate reached 50.1 % in 2013; this rate has increased every year since 2002 (the start of the time series for the EU-28). In 2013, there were 10 EU-28 Member States that had employment rates for older workers that were between 50 % and 63 %, while by far the highest rate was recorded in Sweden (73.6 %) — see Table 2. The three EFTA countries for which data are available also recorded high employment rates for older workers, each over 70 %, peaking at 81.1 % in Iceland. Equally, Japan and to a lesser extent the United States recorded relatively high employment rates for older workers. A more detailed analysis of employment rates by age group is provided in Figure 3 — which confirms that the highest employment rates were consistently recorded among those aged 25 to 54.

Employment rates also vary considerably according to the level of educational attainment: for statistics on this issue employment rates are based on the age group 25 to 64 rather than 15 to 64. The employment rate of those who had completed a tertiary (short-cycle tertiary, bachelor or equivalent, master or equivalent and doctoral or equivalent) education was 83.4 % across the EU-28 in 2013 (see Table 3), much higher than the rate (52.1 %) for those who had attained no more than a primary or lower secondary education. The EU-28 employment rate of persons with at most an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education was 72.7 %. The largest falls in employment rates since the beginning of the financial and economic crisis (comparing 2008 with 2013) were witnessed for persons with at most a primary or lower secondary education and the smallest falls for persons with a tertiary education.

Part-time and fixed-term contracts

The proportion of the EU-28 workforce in the age group 15–64 years reporting that their main job was part-time increased steadily from 16.0 % in 2003 to 19.5 % by 2013. By far the highest proportion of part-time workers in 2013 was found in the Netherlands (50.0 %), followed by Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Ireland, where part-time work accounted in each case for around a quarter of those in employment. By contrast, part-time employment was relatively uncommon in Bulgaria (2.5 % of those in employment) and Slovakia (4.5 %) — see Table 5. The incidence of part-time work differs significantly between men and women. Just under one third (32.1 %) of women aged 15–64 who were employed in the EU-28 worked on a part-time basis in 2013, a much higher proportion than the corresponding share for men (8.8 %). More than three quarters (77.0 %) of all women employed in the Netherlands worked on a part-time basis in 2013, by far the highest rate among the EU Member States [1].

In 2013, the proportion of employees in the EU-28 with a contract of limited duration (fixed-term employment) was 13.8 %. More than one in four (26.8 %) employees in Poland had a temporary contract and this proportion was above one in five in Spain (23.2 %), Portugal (21.5 %) and the Netherlands (20.3 %) — see Figure 5. Among the remaining EU-28 Member States, the share of employees working on a contract of limited duration ranged from 17.5 % in Cyprus down to 2.7 % in Lithuania and 1.5 % in Romania. The considerable range in the propensity to use limited duration contracts between EU Member States may, at least to some degree, reflect national practices, the supply and demand of labour, employer assessments regarding potential growth/contraction, and the ease with which employers can hire or fire.

Data sources and availability

Source statistics

The economically active population (labour force) comprises employed and unemployed persons. The EU LFS defines persons in employment as those aged 15 and over, who, during the reference week, performed some work, even for just one hour per week, for pay, profit or family gain. The labour force also includes people who were not at work but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent, for example, because of illness, holidays, industrial disputes, education or training.

Employment can be measured in terms of the number of persons or jobs, in full-time equivalents or in hours worked. All the estimates presented use the number of persons; the information presented for employment rates is also built on estimates for the number of persons. Employment statistics are frequently reported as employment rates to discount the changing size of countries’ populations over time and to facilitate comparisons between countries of different sizes. These rates are typically published for the working age population, which is generally considered to be those aged between 15 and 64 years, although the age range of 16 to 64 is used in Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as in Iceland; this age group (15 to 64 years) is also a standard used by other international statistical organisations.

Some main employment characteristics, as defined by the EU LFS, include:

  • employees are defined as those who work for a public or private employer and who receive compensation in the form of wages, salaries, payment by results, or payment in kind; non-conscript members of the armed forces are also included;
  • self-employed persons work in their own business, farm or professional practice. A self-employed person is considered to be working during the reference week if she/he meets one of the following criteria: works for the purpose of earning profit; spends time on the operation of a business; or is currently establishing a business;
  • a full-time/part-time distinction in the main job is declared by the respondent, except in Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, where thresholds for usual hours worked are used;
  • indicators for employed persons with a second job refer only to people with more than one job at the same time; people having changed job during the reference week are not counted as having two jobs;
  • an employee is considered as having a temporary job if employer and employee agree that its end is determined by objective conditions, such as a specific date, the completion of an assignment, or the return of an employee who is temporarily replaced. Typical cases include: people in seasonal employment; people engaged by an agency or employment exchange and hired to a third party to perform a specific task (unless there is a written work contract of unlimited duration); people with specific training contracts.


Employment statistics can be used for a number of different analyses, including macroeconomic (looking at labour as a production factor), productivity or competitiveness studies. They can also be used to study a range of social and behavioural aspects related to an individual’s employment situation, such as the social integration of minorities, or employment as a source of household income.

Employment is both a structural indicator and a short-term indicator. As a structural indicator, it may shed light on the structure of labour markets and economic systems, as measured through the balance of labour supply and demand, or the quality of employment. As a short-term indicator, employment follows the business cycle; however, it has limits in this respect, as employment is often referred to as a lagging indicator.

Employment statistics are at the heart of many EU policies. The European employment strategy (EES) was launched at the Luxembourg jobs summit in November 1997 and was revamped in 2005 to align the EU’s employment strategy more closely to a set of revised Lisbon objectives, and in July 2008, employment policy guidelines for the period 2008–10 were updated. In March 2010, the European Commission launched the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; this was formally adopted by the European Council in June 2010. The European Council agreed on five headline targets, the first being to raise the employment rate for women and men aged 20 to 64 years old to 75 % by 2020. EU Member States may set their own national targets in the light of these headline targets and draw up national reform programmes that include the actions they aim to undertake in order to implement the strategy. The implementation of the strategy might be achieved, at least in part, through the promotion of flexible working conditions — for example, part-time work or work from home — which are thought to stimulate labour participation. Among others, initiatives that may encourage more people to enter the labour market include improvements in the availability of childcare facilities, providing more opportunities for lifelong learning, or facilitating job mobility. Central to this theme is the issue of ‘flexicurity’: policies that simultaneously address the flexibility of labour markets, work organisation and labour relations, while taking into account the reconciliation of work and private life, employment security and social protection. In line with the Europe 2020 strategy, the EES encourages measures to help meet three headline targets by 2020, namely, for:

  • 75 % of people aged 20 to 64 to be in work;
  • school drop-out rates to fall below 10 %, and for at least 40 % of 30 to 34-year-olds to have completed a tertiary education;
  • at least 20 million fewer people to be in or at-risk-of-poverty and social exclusion.

The slow pace of recovery from the financial and economic crisis and mounting evidence of rising unemployment led the European Commission to make a set of proposals on 18 April 2012 for measures to boost jobs through a dedicated employment package. These proposals, among others, target the demand-side of job creation, setting out ways for EU Member States to encourage hiring by reducing taxes on labour or supporting business start-ups. The proposals also aim to identify economic areas with the potential for considerable job creation — such as, the green economy, health services and information and communications technology.

In December 2012, in the face of high and still rising youth unemployment in several EU Member States, the European Commission proposed a Youth employment package (COM(2012) 727 final). This package is a follow-up to the actions on youth laid out in the wider employment package and made a range of proposals, including:

  • that all young people up to the age of 25 should receive a quality offer of a job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed (a youth guarantee);
  • a consultation of European social partners on a quality framework for traineeships to enable young people to acquire high-quality work experience under safe conditions;
  • a European alliance for apprenticeships to improve the quality and supply of apprenticeships available and outlining ways to reduce obstacles to mobility for young people.

Efforts to reduce youth unemployment continued in 2013 as the European Commission presented a Youth employment initiative (COM(2013) 144 final) designed to reinforce and accelerate measures outlined in the Youth employment package. It aimed to support, in particular, young people not in education, employment or training in regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25 %. There followed another Communication titled ‘Working together for Europe's young people – A call to action on youth unemployment' (COM(2013) 447 final) which is designed to accelerate the implementation of the youth guarantee and provide help to EU Member States and businesses so they may recruit more young people.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

LFS main indicators (t_lfsi)
Population, activity and inactivity - LFS adjusted series (t_lfsi_act)
Employment - LFS adjusted series (t_lfsi_emp)
Employment growth by sex (tps00180)
Employment rate by sex (tsdec420)
Employment rate of older workers (tsdde100)
Persons employed part-time - Total (tps00159)
Employees with a contract of limited duration (annual average) (tps00073)
LFS series - Detailed annual survey results (t_lfsa)
Employment rate, by highest level of education attained (tsdec430)
Employed persons with a second job (tps00074)
Hours worked per week of full-time employment (tps00071)
Hours worked per week of part-time employment (tps00070)
LFS series - Specific topics (t_lfst)
Employment rate of the age group 15-64 by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00007)
Employment rate of the age group 20-64 by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00102)
Employment rate of the age group 55-64 by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00054)


LFS main indicators (lfsi)
Population, activity and inactivity - LFS adjusted series (lfsi_act)
Employment - LFS adjusted series (lfsi_emp)
LFS series - Detailed quarterly survey results (from 1998) (lfsq)
Employment - LFS series (lfsq_emp)
Employment rates - LFS series (lfsq_emprt)
Self-employed - LFS series (lfsq_empself)
Employees - LFS series (lfsq_emppaid)
Temporary employment - LFS series (lfsq_emptemp)
Full-time and part-time employment - LFS series (lfsq_empftpt)
Population in employment having a second job - LFS series (lfsq_emp2job)
Working time - LFS series (lfsq_wrktime)
LFS series - Detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
Employment - LFS series (lfsa_emp)
Employment rates - LFS series (lfsa_emprt)
Self employed - LFS series (lfsa_empself)
Employees - LFS series (lfsa_emppaid)
Temporary employment - LFS series (lfsa_emptemp)
Full-time and part-time employment - LFS series (lfsa_empftpt)
Population in employment having a second job - LFS series (lfsa_emp2job)
Population in employment working during unsocial hours - LFS series (lfsa_empasoc)
Working time - LFS series (lfsa_wrktime)
LFS series -Specific topics (lfst)
Households statistics - LFS series (lfst_hh)
LFS regional series (lfst_r)
LFS ad-hoc modules (lfso)
2012. Transition from work to retirement (lfso_12)
2010. Reconciliation between work and family life (lfso_10)
2009. Entry of young people into the labour market (lfso_09)
2008. Labour market situation of migrants (lfso_08)
2007. Work related accidents, health problems and hasardous exposure (lfs_07)
2006. Transition from work into retirement (lfso_06)
2005. Reconciliation between work and family life (lfso_05)
2004. Work organisation and working time arrangements (lfso_04)
2003. Lifelong learning (lfso_03)
2002. Employment of disabled persons (lfso_02)
2000. Transition from school to working life (lfso_00)

Dedicated Section

Methodology / Metadata


ESMS metadata files and EU-LFS methdodology

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links


  1. Anyone working fewer than 35 hours a week is considered as working part-time in the Netherlands.