Underemployment and potential additional labour force statistics
- Data extracted in May 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2017.
This article reports on three supplementary forms of unemployment in the European Union (EU) , some EFTA countries, and some candidate countries. These types of unemployment are not covered by the ILO definition of unemployment. The three forms include:
- Underemployed part-time workers . These are persons who work part-time, but who want to work more, and are available to do so, which makes them involuntarily working part-time.
- Jobless persons seeking a job but not immediately available for work . Some of the persons we find here are students in their last year of studies, who send job applications to try out the labour market situation, but who have to complete their studies before accepting a job.
- Jobless persons available for work but not seeking it . This group contains amongst others discouraged job seekers, that is, persons who would want to find a job, but have given up looking for one.
The last two groups jointly are referred to as the potential additional labour force. All three groups jointly are referred to as supplementary indicators to unemployment. These supplementary indicators complement the unemployment rate to provide a more complete picture of the labour market.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 A detailed look at 2015
- 3 Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and age
- 4 Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and education
- 5 Supplementary indicators to unemployment by citizenship
- 6 Population definition and main characteristics
- 7 Context
- 8 Data sources and availability
- 9 See also
- 10 Further Eurostat information
- 11 External links
- 12 Notes
Main statistical findings
The size of the potential additional labour force was quite stable from 2005 to 2015 at EU level, with a small decrease until 2008 (when it was at its smallest at 10 million persons), and then a small and steady increase up to 2014 (the largest recorded size, of 11 777 million persons), followed by a small drop again in 2015, to 11 440 million persons (see figure 1a). This is in clear contrast with the development of the number of unemployed persons, which fluctuated heavily over the same period. The development over time for the underemployed part-time workers quite closely mirrors the potential additional labour force, but at about 80 % of its level. In 2008 the size of the population of underemployed part time workers equalled 77 % of the potential additional labour force, and in 2015 the proportion was 87 %.
Splitting up the potential additional labour force into its two sub groups, a small and rather even decrease in the number of jobless persons seeking work, but who are not available, can be seen (Figure 1b). For the persons available to work, but who are not seeking it, the opposite trend can be found, which mirrors the shape, if not the size, of the unemployed (dropping towards 2008, increasing towards 2014, and then dropping in 2015).
In summary, in the years following the economic crisis (2008-2015) fewer jobless persons being not immediately available sought work (dropping by 353 thousand persons), more persons gave up seeking work even though they wanted to work (increasing by 1.8 million persons), and there were more involuntary part-time workers (rising by 2.3 million) in the EU. This development comes in addition to the increase of 6.1 million unemployed persons over the same time period.
A detailed look at 2015
In 2015 there were 10.0 million underemployed part-time workers, 2.2 million jobless persons seeking a job but not immediately available for work, and 9.3 million persons available for work but not seeking it in the EU-28. The following chapters present the situation for these three analytical groups by country, sex, age, education, and citizenship.
Underemployed part-time workers
The number of underemployed part-time workers and their effect on the labour market depends in general on both the share of part-time workers in total employment and the share of underemployed people among part-time workers. In addition, major differences exist between countries, which are not apparent when only looking at the EU average. For this reason, in addition to looking at absolute numbers at EU-level, figures at country level as well as proportions of total employment and of part-time workers will be looked at in this section, in order to better understand the full picture of underemployment.
Please note that part-time working is self-reported, that is, there is no EU-level limit specified for where part-time begins and full-time work stops.
Figure 2a shows which proportion of persons in employment in each country were underemployed part-time workers in 2015. Cyprus and Spain clearly ranked top, with almost one out of ten of working persons being in such a situation, as opposed to Bulgaria and the Czech Republic where this situation is almost non-existent. Even though there is no striking pattern, the lowest occurrences of underemployed part-time workers tend to be in the eastern and southern parts of the EU.
Figure 2a informs about the total effect of involuntary part-time work on the total working population, but little about the risk a part-time working person runs of being underemployed, as the number of underemployed part-time workers to some extent is a function of the total amount of part-time workers in the country. In contrast, Figure 2b (please note the different scale from Figure 2a) shows how many of the part-time workers in each country are involuntarily working part-time, giving a different picture. Greece, Cyprus and Spain are still at the top, and the Czech Republic, Estonia and Turkey are still at the bottom, but for instance the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have moved markedly in the country ranking.
Being at the top of both Figures 2a and 2b (Greece, Cyprus, Spain) means that there are many part-time workers and that a majority of them would prefer to work full-time. A large minority (30-49 %) of the part-time workers in Romania, Slovenia, France, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia, Croatia, Portugal, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would also have preferred to work more. On the other hand, a large majority of the part-time workers in Denmark, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Malta, Germany, Norway and Turkey are satisfied with their part-time situation.
The potential additional labour force
As already shown, the potential additional labour force consists of two subgroups: persons who are available to work, but don't seek it, and persons who seek work but are not immediately available to start working.
All countries follow the same main pattern, clearly visible in Figure 3: persons available, but not seeking always outnumber those seeking but not immediately available.
Figure 3 presents the size for each of these subgroups for each country in 2015 , as a proportion of the active population. This corresponds to the theoretical increase in the active population if the demand for employment from the potential additional labour force had been met.
Map 1 shows the same information, but organised a bit differently, and presented geographically instead of in a panel chart. Here we see the proportion between the two groups (available but not seeking, and seeking but not available), and the countries differ substantially from each other. In Germany and Sweden the two groups are almost equal to each other, with the group of persons available but not seeking only 1.1 times larger than those seeking but not immediately available. In Spain the corresponding number is 4.3, in Hungary it is 16.1, and in Italy it is 33.2 . A reasonable conclusion from Figure 3 and Map 1 is that discouraged jobseekers are much more prevalent in the south and the east than in the north and the west, with Greece as an exception.
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and age
Women outnumber men in five of the six presented categories in Figure 4a (three age groups by sex). When looking at the underemployed part-time workers, the differences are smaller for the youngest and the oldest age group. For the main working age group of 25-54 years, the differences are striking: 2.3 million men in the EU-28 were underemployed in 2015, while more than twice as many women (4.8 million) were in this situation. In total, two out of three underemployed workers are women. Not surprisingly, the age group of 25-54 contains more than 70 % of the underemployed for the total population.
Regarding the potential additional labour force, men and women show almost the same levels in the 15-24 and the 55-74 age groups, with men slightly higher in the youngest group and women slightly higher in the oldest group. However, women (4.2 million) clearly outnumber men (2.6 million) in the 25-54 age group.
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and education
The educational level is another classical background variable often used to explain labour market outcomes. In Figure 4b it is shown that the number of underemployed part-time workers, both for men and for women, is highest for those with a medium level of education (defined as upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED levels 3 and 4)), at 3.2 million for women and 1.5 million for men. For women, the amount of underemployed are exactly the same for those with low and for those with high education, at 1.7 million each. The smallest group of underemployed is clearly made of men with a high educational level.
For the potential additional labour force, the differences between men and women are smaller, but still clearly visible, and the main pattern remains: the largest group is made of women with a medium educational level (2.8 million) and the smallest group made of men with a high educational level (0.6 million).
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by citizenship
The citizenship being a variable of high interest, the crossing of the supplementary indicators with the citizenship groups is presented and analysed in this section. Results for the eleven countries with publishable data quality for all six groups (three groups of citizenship types by the two main types of the supplementary indicators) are shown, alongside the EU-28 average, in Figure 5, as percentages of the total population in each country.
The main trend is that the further away one comes from, the larger is the chance of being underemployed or being in the potential additional labour force. For the EU-28 average, if you live in the country corresponding to your citizenship, the risk of being underemployed is 2.5 %. If your citizenship is from somewhere outside the EU, the corresponding number is 5.4 %, more than double. Foreigners from another EU country are in a middle position, at 4.4 %. The pattern is the same for the potential additional labour force, at 2.9 % for nationals and 5.0 % for persons holding a non-EU passport.
There are clear differences among countries for the potential additional labour force for non-EU citizens (3.6 % in Germany and the United Kingdom, and a surprisingly high 9.8 % in the Netherlands), but the pattern already mentioned at the EU-level holds for a majority of the countries. Minor but noticeable exceptions are Spain, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
For the underemployed people, at country level, the most equal situation can be found in the Netherlands, where a non-EU citizen is 1.3 times more likely to be underemployed than a Dutch national. On the contrary, the most unequal situation is in Italy, where the corresponding number is equal to 4.4.
Population definition and main characteristics
Figure 6 presents a graphical description of the populations who are included in the supplementary indicators, their absolute and relative sizes, and their relation to the other main groups covered by the labour force survey. The 10.0 million underemployed part-time workers are a sub-population of the 44.6 million part-time workers. The 11.4 million persons in the potential additional labour force are a sub-population of the 136 million inactive persons.
These three indicators supplement the unemployment rate, thus providing an enhanced and richer picture than the traditional labour status framework, which classifies people as employed, unemployed or economically inactive, i.e. in only three categories. The indicators create ‘halos’ around unemployment. This concept is further analysed in a Statistics in Focus publication titled 'New measures of labour market attachment'. That publication also explains the rationale of the indicators and provides additional insight as to how they should be interpreted. The supplementary indicators neither alter nor put in question the unemployment statistics standards used by Eurostat. Eurostat publishes unemployment statistics according to the ILO definition, the same definition as used by statistical offices all around the world. Eurostat continues publishing unemployment statistics using the ILO definition and they remain the benchmark and headline indicators.
Data sources and availability
All figures in this report are based on the EU Labour force survey (LFS).
Note that in relative terms the three indicators have different interpretations and it is explicitly not advised to add them to obtain a total. In particular, the relative figures for the two indicators persons seeking work but not immediately available and persons available but not seeking work are not shares because the numerator is not a subgroup of the denominator (persons in the numerators are not in the labour force, see Figure 3). Instead, the percentages for these two indicators show how much the current labour force could grow if joined by these people with a certain degree of labour market attachment. For its part, the indicator underemployed part-time workers as percentage of the labour force is a classical share because the numerator is a subgroup of the denominator.
- Employment statistics
- Job vacancy statistics
- People outside the labour market
- Unemployment statistics
Further Eurostat information
- New measures of labour market attachment - Statistics in focus 57/2011
- LFS main indicators (lfsi)
- Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (une)
- Supplementary indicators to unemployment - annual data (lfsi_sup_a)
- Supplementary indicators to unemployment - quarterly data (lfsi_sup_q)
- Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (une)
- LFS series - Detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
- Total unemployment - LFS series (lfsa_unemp)
- Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and age (lfsa_sup_age)
- Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and educational attainment level (lfsa_sup_edu)
- Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and citizenship (lfsa_sup_nat)
- Total unemployment - LFS series (lfsa_unemp)
- LFS series - Detailed quarterly survey results (lfsq)
- Total unemployment - LFS series (lfsq_unemp)
- Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and age (lfsq_sup_age)
- Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and educational attainment level (lfsq_sup_edu)
- Total unemployment - LFS series (lfsq_unemp)
- These three groups do not meet all criteria of the ILO unemployment definition i.e. being without work, actively seeking work, and being available for work. However, while not being captured through the unemployment rate, these groups still represent a form of unmet demand for employment. While underemployed part-time workers are part of the labour force, the two other groups (persons seeking work but not immediately available and persons available to work but not seeking) are part of the economically inactive population.