Labour market and Labour force survey (LFS) statistics

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Data extracted in September 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: November 2018.

European Union Labour force survey - Annual results 2016

This article presents some of the main results for 2016 of the EU Labour force survey (LFS) for the European Union (EU) as a whole, for all Member States individually, as well as for two candidate countries and three EFTA countries.

This article complements the articles Employment Statistics , Employment rates and Europe 2020 national targets, Underemployment and potential additional labour force statistics, and Unemployment statistics and beyond.

Infographic Labour Force Survey.jpg Infographic 1: Labour market in the EU, 2016
Click on the image for an interactive view of the data. Click on the arrow icons to expand the bars.

Figure 1: Private households by working status, 2016, EU-28 and countries, % - Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhnhwhtc)
Figure 2: Full-time or part-time work by sex and existence of children, persons aged 25-54, 2016, EU-28 and countries, % - Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhindws)
Figure 3: Part-time work by sex and age of children, 2016, EU-28 and countries, % [1] - Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhptechi)
Figure 4: Economically inactive persons, by main reason for being inactive, age, and sex, 2016, EU-28, % - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_igar)
Figure 5: Discouraged job-seekers by sex, 2006-2016, EU-28 and countries, % - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_igar)
Figure 6: Persons in employment by professional status, 2016, EU-28 and countries, % - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_egaps)
Figure 7: Employees and self-employed by sex, 2016, EU-28 and countries, % - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_egaps)
Figure 8: Usual weekly hours in the main job, 2016, EU-28 and countries - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_ewhun2)
Figure 9: Usual weekly hours in the main job, full-time employees, 2016, EU-28 and countries - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_ewhun2)
Figure 10: Temporary employment agency workers by sex, 2016, EU-28 and countries, % [2] - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_qoe_4a6r2)
Figure 11: Precarious employment by sex, 2016, EU-28 and countries, % - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_qoe_4ax1r2)
Figure 12: Employment rate by country of birth, age, and sex, 2016, EU-28, % [3]
The breakdown EU-immigrant and non-EU immigrant is not available for Germany and is therefore not included in the EU total
- Source: Eurostat (lfsa_ergacob)

Main statistical findings

In 2016 there were 188.4 million employees and 32.7 million self-employed in the EU-28. 178.2 million persons worked full-time and 45.3 million worked part-time. The average working week was 37.1 hours.

The most common household type in 2016 at the EU level, seen from a labour market perspective, was made by households where all adults were working. Men with children were more likely to work full-time than men without children, whereas the opposite was true for women. Among women aged 25-49, 10.4  % were economically inactive because of staying at home caring for others; the corresponding rate for men of this age is 0.6 %.

Population by labour status

Infographic 1 shows the main sub-populations and their relative and absolute size, as they are defined in the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Among the total EU population in 2016 of 510.1 million persons, 379.7 million were aged 15-74 (which is the focus population for employment and unemployment). Of these, 244.5 million were economically active ; 135.2 million were consequently economically inactive. Furthermore, 223.6 million persons were in employment , while 20.9 million were unemployed . Employees (188.4 million) far outnumbered self-employed (32.7 million), and full-time work (178.2 million) was much more common than part-time work (45.3 million).

Labour market analysis using household information

Main household types

The most common household type in the EU-28 in 2016, seen from a labour market perspective, was households where all adults were working (43 % of all private households) (Figure 1). This was followed by households where none of the adults were working (36 %). In the remaining 21 % of the households, at least one adult was working and at least one adult was not working. Among the EU Member States, Sweden had the highest percentage of households where all adults were working (63 %), Greece the highest percentage of households where no adults were working (45 %) and Malta the highest percentage of households where at least one adult was working and at least one adult was not working.

Effect of having children

Another approach to household-based labour market analysis is to see how the situation of persons with children and of persons without children differ. In Figure 2 the persons without children are on the left hand side and the persons with children on the right hand side of each graph. The graphs are limited to persons aged 25-54 years, so that different national situations for pupils, students and retired do not influence the results and do not compromise the comparability between countries. The lines in the chart represent the proportion of men and women who work full-time and part-time separately.

Starting with the EU aggregate we see that men with children were more likely to work full-time than men without children in 2016. The opposite is true for women; here the probability of working full-time drops markedly among women with children compared to women without children. This pattern of a widening gap between the sexes for working full-time when having a child is present in each of the countries, although the strength of the effect differs. Germany, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom show large gender gap increases, whereas Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania and Portugal show small increases.

For part-time work the effects are much smaller. We only see mentionable changes in Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom. This means that women in these countries rather shift to part-time work than leave the labour market when they have children.

Figure 3 shows that the part-time rate of women increases substantially when they have children. For the EU-28, 22 % of women who work and who don’t have children, work part-time. The corresponding figure for women who have young children (less than 6 years old) is 39 %. The part-time work rate for women stays at well above 30 % even when their children reach their teens. On the opposite, the part-time work rate of men is not affected by having children or by the age of the children: it nearly always stays below 10 %.

There are however wide differences between countries. Part-time work is practically non-existent in Croatia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and Romania both for men and women while it is very common for women in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Labour market analysis at individual level

Economically inactive persons

In order to complement the articles which analyse the labour market through the employment and unemployment rates (see links at the top of this article), we will look here at the inactivity rate. This rate tells us how many persons are economically inactive out of the total adult population in the country. Those who stay outside the labour market do so for many different reasons: they can be for instance in education, retired, staying at home to look after children, ill or incapacitated dependants.

Figure 4 shows that the situations of men and women in 2016 in the EU-28 were very similar to each other for inactivity due to education and inactivity due to retirement. In the age group 15-24, 49.3 % of the men were economically inactive due to education, resp. 52.1 % of the women. If we look at the older age group (50-74 years) and the inactivity because of retirement or illness, the shares were 40.5 % for men and 41.2 % for women.

However, when it comes to staying outside the labour market because of family obligations, the shares for men and women differ widely. For persons aged 25-49, only 0.6 % of the men were economically inactive for this reason in 2016 whereas the corresponding percentage for women was more than 17 times higher, i.e. 10.4 %.

Discouraged job seekers can also be found among economically inactive people (Figure 5). They are those who would have liked to work, but have given up looking for a job because they believe that it is not possible to find one. It is a key point to understand that a high inactivity rate will push the unemployment rate down, as it takes these persons out of the equation for the unemployment rate. At the EU level the discouraged job seekers made up 1.0 % of men and 1.5 % of women aged 15-64 in 2016. Over the last ten years, this rate has fluctuated between 0.6 % and 1.2 % for men, and between 1.2 % and 1.9 % for women.

There are notable differences between countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Portugal, Romania as well as the candidate country the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have relatively many discouraged job seekers, whereas this group of persons is quasi non-existent in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria, the United Kingdom as well as the EFTA country Iceland. A more comprehensive analysis of all the aspects of underemployment is published at Underemployment and potential additional labour force statistics.

Employees versus self-employed

The vast majority of persons who work are employees. For the EU-28 average, this number stood at 85.0 % in 2016 (Figure 6). Some differences exist across countries but the general pattern holds for all of them: employees outnumber self-employed by a wide margin everywhere. In only two countries is the proportion of employees below 75 % (Greece as well as the Candidate country Turkey). Five countries have more than nine out of ten working persons as employees (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Sweden as well as the EFTA country Norway).

Figure 7 shows that 52.0 % of the employees were men in the EU-28 in 2016. In other words, we are very close to the gender balance for the number of employees. Among Member States this situation ranges from a 5.7 percentage points for women in Lithuania (52.9 % of employees were women), to 14.9 percentage points for in Malta (42.5 % of employees were women). When it comes to self-employed, the picture changes markedly. At EU level there were two self-employed men for each self-employed woman in 2016 (67.5 % of self-employed are men).

One in ten persons who work was self-employed without employees (own-account workers) (10.0 %) and one in twenty-five was an employer (self-employed with employees) (4.0 %) in the EU-28 in 2016. The levels nevertheless differ substantially between countries, as own-account workers make up close to a quarter of persons in employment in Greece (22.2 %) and only 4.4 % in Denmark. Self-employed with employees are less common, ranging from 1.1% in Romania to 7.3 % in Greece.

Working hours in the main job

The usual working week (main job only) in the EU in 2016 was 37.1 hours. Among Member States, the longest working weeks can be found in Greece (42.3 hours per week) and the shortest in the Netherlands (30.3 hours per week). If all countries are taken into account, the longest working weeks were recorded in Turkey (46.8 hours per week) (Figure 8).

It is important to note that these numbers are influenced by the proportion of the work force which works part-time (more part-time means lower average hours), the composition of the economic activities (working weeks are longer for farmers, construction workers, manufacturing workers), the proportion of self-employed (self-employed work longer hours), and the activity rate of women (women work shorter weeks than men).

When only full-time employees are considered, the EU average working week in the main job in 2016 corresponds to 40.3 hours. Men had a longer working week than women, working on average 41.0 hours compared with 39.3 hours for women. Those in the mining and quarrying industry worked the longest hours (42.0 hours), while the shortest working week is to be found in the education sector (38.1 hours). Looking at countries' situation, full-time employees in the United Kingdom spent on average in 2016 the highest number of hours per week at their main job (42.3 hours). They are followed by those working in Cyprus (41.7), Austria (41.4), Greece (41.2), Poland and Portugal (both 41.1). Denmark, with a working week of 37.8 hours, is the only country in which the normal number of working hours is less than 38. The next shortest week is in Italy (38.8), followed by the Netherlands and France (both 39.0), Finland and Ireland (39.1).

Temporary employment agency workers

The percentage of employed persons who work for a temporary work agency is low. At EU level this is the case for 2.0 % of the employed men and 1.3 % of the employed women. Men are more likely to work as temporary agency workers than women in 17 of the EU Member States. Figure 10[4] shows that the use of this form of employment is the highest in the Netherlands (4.8 % for men, 3.3 % for women) and Slovenia (4.3 % for men, 6.1 % for women), whereas it barely exists in Greece (0.5 % both for men and women), Hungary (0.4 % both for men and women) and the United Kingdom (0.6 % for men and 0.4 % for women).

Precarious employment

The overall proportion of persons in precarious employment situations (having a work contract of only up to 3 months) was highest in Croatia, France, Spain and Poland as well as the candidate countries Montenegro and Turkey (Figure 11). The differences between men and women are not very large, and there is no obvious pattern among the countries.

Foreign workers in the EU

EU-immigrants, that is, persons who live and work inside the EU but who were born in another EU Member State, have a very similar employment rate to that of natives. We even see (Figure 12[5]) that these immigrants in fact have a higher employment rate than the natives for some age groups (men aged 20-34, and women aged 20-24 and 60-74). The situation is different for non-EU immigrants. Here the employment rate is markedly lower for them than for the natives for most of the age groups (15-59). We do however also see that non-EU immigrants have higher employment rates than natives for the age group 60-69 years both for men and for women.

Data sources and availability

Source: the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) is a large sample, quarterly survey providing results for the population in private households in the EU, EFTA and the candidate countries. Conscripts in military or community service are not included in the results.

Reference period: Yearly results are obtained as averages of the four quarters in the year.

Coverage: The data for France cover the metropolitan territory (excluding overseas regions) Country codes: Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), the Czech Republic (CZ), Denmark (DK), Germany (DE), Estonia (EE), Ireland (IE), Greece (EL), Spain (ES), France (FR), Croatia (HR), Italy (IT), Cyprus (CY), Latvia (LV), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Hungary (HU), Malta (MT), the Netherlands (NL), Austria (AT), Poland (PL), Portugal (PT), Romania (RO), Slovenia (SI), Slovakia (SK), Finland (FI), Sweden (SE), the United Kingdom (UK), Iceland (IS), Norway (NO), Switzerland (CH), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MK), Turkey (TR). The abbreviation MK used for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a provisional code which does not prejudice in any way the definitive nomenclature for this country, which will be agreed following the conclusion of negotiations currently taking place on this subject at the United Nations.

European aggregates: EU refers to the sum of EU-28 Member States and EA to the sum of the 19 euro area Member States. If data are unavailable for a country, the calculation of the corresponding aggregates takes into account the data for the same country for the most recent period available. Such cases are indicated.

Definitions: The concepts and definitions used in the survey follow the guidelines of the International Labour Organisation. Employment covers persons aged 15 years and over (16 and over in Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, 15-74 years in Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and 16-74 years in Iceland), living in private households, who during the reference week performed work, even for just one hour, for pay, profit or family gain, or were not at work but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent, for example because of illness, holidays, industrial dispute or education and training.

The LFS employment concept differs from national accounts domestic employment, as the latter sets no limit on age or type of household, and also includes the non-resident population contributing to GDP and conscripts in military or community service.

Unemployment covers persons aged 15-74 (16-74 in Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Iceland) who were not employed during the reference week, were currently available for work and had either been actively seeking work in the past four weeks or had already found a job starting within the next three months.

Long-term unemployment covers persons unemployed for one year or more. Youth unemployment is unemployment of persons aged 15 to 24. Citizenship is defined according to the national legislation of each country.

Definitions of indicators reported in this publication are available on the EU-LFS Statistics Explained website: EU Labour Force Survey (Statistics Explained)


The EU-LFS is the largest European household sample survey providing quarterly and annual results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over as well as on persons outside the labour force. It covers residents in private households. The EU-LFS is an important source of information about the situation and trends in the EU labour market.

Each quarter around 1.8 million interviews are conducted throughout the participating countries to obtain statistical information for some 100 variables. Due to the diversity of information and the large sample size the EU-LFS is also an important source for other European statistics like Education statistics or Regional statistics.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables


Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata


  1. Missing lines denotes that the results are below the publication threshold
  2. Results for Bulgaria, Estonia, Cyprus, and Malta is not published due to the low reliability of the data
  3. The breakdown EU-immigrant and non-EU immigrant is not available for Germany
  4. Missing bars mean that there are so few cases that it falls below the publication treshold
  5. The breakdown EU-immigrant and non-EU immigrant is not available for Germany