The EU in the world - labour market
- Data extracted in March 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2018.
The article focuses on labour market statistics in the European Union (EU) and in the 15 non-EU members of 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
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 the labour market and this can be seen clearly in employment and unemployment indicators.
The activity rate is the share of economically active persons (also known as the labour force) in the total population of a particular age (in this publication the age range 15–64 has been used). The economically active population comprises employed and unemployed persons.
The activity rate of men was higher than the corresponding rate for women in all G20 members
In 2014, the activity rate stood at 72.3 % for the EU-28, with the rate for men (78.1 %) higher than that for women (66.5 %). Between 2009 and 2014 the rate for men was quite stable from 77.9 % to 78.1 % while for women there was an increase from 64.1 % to 66.5 % (see Figures 1 and 2).
For the G20 members the activity rate in 2014 among men aged 15–64 ranged from 72.0 % in South Africa (2013 data) to 86.3 % in Indonesia (2013 data). 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 aged 15–64 was economically active than the proportion of the equivalent female population. Only in Canada and in South Africa (2013 data) was the difference between male and female activity rates less than 10 percentage points (pp). By contrast, the gender difference was 31 pp in Mexico and Indonesia (2013 data), reached 37 pp in Turkey, and peaked at 42 pp in Saudi Arabia. These high gender differences reflected particularly low activity rates for women in these G20 members, as can be seen in Figure 2. In Saudi Arabia the activity rate in 2014 for women was 38.3 %, in Turkey it was 41.6 % and in Mexico it was 48.8 %, whereas in all other G20 members the latest activity rate for women exceeded 50 %.
The employment rate, calculated as the share of employed persons in the total population of working age, was 64.9 % in 2014 in the EU-28. Between 2009 and 2014 the employment rate for the EU-28 decreased for men from 71.0 % to 70.1 % and increased for women from 57.0 % to 59.6 % (see Figures 1 and 2).
The EU-28’s employment rate for men in 2014 was the third lowest within the G20 members for which data are available in Figure 1, although only marginally above the rate in Turkey. Elsewhere, employment rates for men ranged from 73.5 % in the United States to 80.1 % in Indonesia (2013 data) with Japan (81.6 %) above this range. For women (Figure 2) the range in employment rates was similar to that for the activity rate, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Africa (2013 data), Mexico, Indonesia (2013 data) and Argentina (urban areas) recording the lowest rates, while all other G20 members reported rates over 50 %. The highest employment rate for women was recorded in Canada, 69.4 % in 2014.
An analysis of employment rates by highest level of completed education is shown in Figure 3, with this restricted to the age group 25–64 in order to focus on the adult working-age population. Among the 10 G20 members in the figure, all recorded a lower adult employment rate for the group of persons having completed at most a lower secondary level of education (data not available for Japan); equally, all recorded a higher adult employment rate for the group of persons having completed tertiary education. The difference between the lowest and highest adult employment rates for these education levels exceeded 30 pp in the EU-28 and in Russia (2012 data), whereas it was below 20 pp in Brazil, Mexico and South Korea.
Unemployment levels and rates
The unemployment rate is calculated as the number of unemployed persons as a proportion of economically active persons (the labour force comprising all employed and unemployed persons). In 2014, the number of unemployed persons (aged 15–64) in the EU-28 was 24.7 million, equivalent to an unemployment rate of 10.4 %. Among the other G20 members, the unemployment rate in 2014 ranged from 3.6 % in South Korea to 10.1 % in Turkey, with South Africa (25.1 %) considerably above it.
South Korea had the lowest unemployment among the G20
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 between rising output and falling unemployment may be quite lengthy.
In most of the G20 members the unemployment rates were lower in 2014 compared to 2009, however there was an increase of the unemployment rates that varied from 1.4 pp in the EU-28 to 0.4 pp in Saudi Arabia during the same period which also affected South Africa, India (2010 and 2013 data) and Australia (see Figure 4). Russia, the United States, and Turkey presented deceases in unemployment above 2.5 pp.
In the EU-28, unemployment rates for men and women (aged 15–64) were relatively similar, 10.3 % for men and 10.5 % for women in 2014 (see Figure 5). In Indonesia (2013 data), Australia (2015 data), the United States, Japan and South Korea the difference between the unemployment rates for men and women was also less than 0.5 pp. In Canada, Mexico and Russia, the difference was between 0.5 and 1.0 pp (with lower unemployment for women), but in Argentina, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa and Saudi Arabia the unemployment rates for women were between 1.9 and 18.8 pp higher than for men.
The lowest unemployment rates were generally recorded for persons having completed tertiary education
A comparison for 14 G20 members indicates that adult unemployment rates in 2013 were most often highest among persons who had at most completed lower secondary education. Saudi Arabia (2009 data) and South Korea were exceptions to this rule, as their highest unemployment rates were recorded among persons having completed tertiary education. In Turkey, Mexico, Indonesia and Japan the highest unemployment rates were among the population with an intermediate level (upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary) (see Figure 6). Apart from Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia (2009 data), the lowest adult unemployment rates were recorded for persons having completed tertiary education.
Youth unemployment rates in the EU-28 increased between 2009 and 2014
Figures 7 and 8 present analyses of the youth unemployment rate, which is calculated as the percentage of economically active persons in the age group 15–24 that were unemployed. It should be remembered that a large share of persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years are outside the labour market and therefore not economically active; 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.
In 2014, the youth unemployment rate in the EU-28 was 22.2 %. Among the other G20 members, the youth unemployment rate in 2014 ranged from 10.0 % in South Korea to 30.2 % in Saudi Arabia, with Japan (6.2 %) below this range and South Africa (51.3 %) considerably above it. All G20 members recorded a higher youth unemployment rate than their overall unemployment rate (2010 data). The largest differences between youth and overall unemployment rates in 2014, all in excess of 20 percentage points, were recorded in Saudi Arabia and South Africa, while differences in excess of 10 pp were also recorded in Indonesia, the EU-28 and Argentina.
In 2014 there was relatively little difference in youth unemployment rates in the EU-28 when analysed by sex (see Figures 7 and 8), with the rate for men 1.4 pp higher than the rate for women. Canada and the United States (2013 data) reported the largest gender gaps among the G20 members where youth unemployment rates for men were higher than for women, whereas several G20 members reported much higher youth unemployment rates for women than men: in Brazil, South Africa and Argentina the youth unemployment rates for women were more than 5 pp higher than for men; in Saudi Arabia the difference was 36.7 pp.
The EU-28 and four G20 members recorded an increase in male youth unemployment rates from 2009 to 2014, the increases exceeded 1.5 pp in the EU-28 and Australia, peaked at 3.4 pp in South Africa, and presented increases below 1.0 pp in India (between 2010 and 2012) and Mexico. Among young women, the highest increments were recorded in Saudi Arabia (+ 3.2 pp), South Africa (+ 2.9 pp) and also the EU-28 (+ 2.8 pp), but also affected Russia (+ 2.6 pp), Australia and Mexico (both with a 2.1 pp increase), The increment of female youth unemployment was less significant in in South Korea (+ 0.6 pp) and India (+ 0.1 pp from 2010 to 2012).
In the other G20 members (with the exception of China where data was not available in 2014) there was a decrease in youth employment rates from 2009 to 2014 that was generally more intense than the increases mentioned above. In Turkey, the United States (2013 data) and Russia the male youth employment rates were at least 5.0 pp lower in 2014 compared with 2009. For female youth unemployment the highest reductions stood at 3.0 pp in Argentina, 2.7 pp in both Japan and the United States (2013 data), and 2.3 pp in Turkey. In all the other G20 members the decrease in female youth unemployment was below 2.0 pp.
South Africa had the highest long-term unemployment rate
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 1), Mexico and South Korea (2012 data) reported long-term unemployment rates close to zero, while this rate reached 5.1 % in the EU-28 and 14.4 % in South Africa. In the EU-28 the long-term unemployed accounted for nearly half of all unemployed, a share that reached nearly three fifths in South Africa.
Data sources and availability
The statistical data in this article were extracted during March 2016.
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.
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 article and data that is subsequently downloaded.
G20 members from the rest of the world
For the 15 non-EU G20 members, the data presented have been extracted from a range of international sources, namely the International Labour Organization. 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 members.
Labour market statistics measure the involvement of individuals 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). 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). Members of the population who are neither employed nor unemployed are considered to be economically inactive.
- 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 2016
- European Union Labour force survey — Annual results 2012 — Issue number 14/2013
- The European Union and the African Union — 2014 edition
- Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) — A statistical portrait — 2016 edition
- Key figures on the enlargement countries — 2014 edition
- Pocketbook on Euro-Mediterranean statistics — 2013 edition
- The European Union and the BRIC countries
- The European Union and the Republic of Korea — 2012
- LFS main indicators (lfsi)
- Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (une)
- Long-term unemployment by sex - annual average, % (une_ltu_a)
- Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (une)
- LFS series - Detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
- Activity and activity rates - LFS series (lfsa_act)
- Activity rates by sex, age and nationality (%) (lfsa_argan)
- Employment - LFS series (lfsa_emp)
- Employment by sex, age and nationality (1 000) (lfsa_egan)
- Employment rates - LFS series (lfsa_emprt)
- Employment rates by sex, age and educational attainment level (%) (lfsa_ergaed)
- Total unemployment - LFS series (lfsa_unemp)
- Unemployment rates by sex, age and nationality (%) (lfsa_urgan)
- Unemployment rates by sex, age and educational attainment level (%) (lfsa_urgaed)
- Unemployment by sex, age and nationality (1 000) (lfsa_ugan)
- Activity and activity rates - LFS series (lfsa_act)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- European Commission — Employment, Social Affairs & inclusion
- International Labour Organisation (ILO) ILOSTAT