European Neighbourhood Policy - South - labour market statistics

Data extracted in December 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: February 2019.

This article is part of an online publication and provides data on some key characteristics of labour markets in 8 of the 10 countries that form the European Neighbourhood Policy-South (ENP-South) region, namely, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine [1] and Tunisia; no recent data for Libya or Syria. The article presents indicators for these countries and the European Union (EU) such as activity rates, employment rates, an analysis of employment by economic activity, and statistics in relation to unemployment.

Figure 1: Activity rates (persons aged 15-64), 2016
(% of total population)
Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a)
Figure 2: Gender gap for employment rates (persons aged 15-64), 2006 and 2016
(percentage points difference, male employment rate - female employment rate)
Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a)
Table 1: Analysis of employment (persons aged 15 or more) by economic activity, 2006 and 2016
(% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_egana) and (lfsa_egan2)
Table 2: Unemployment rates (persons aged 15-74), 2006-2016
(% of labour force)
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_urgan)
Table 3: Long-term unemployment rates (persons aged 15-74), 2006-2016
(% of labour force)
Source: Eurostat (une_ltu_a)
Table 4: Analysis of unemployment rates (persons aged 15-74) by level of educational attainment, 2006 and 2016
(% of labour force)
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_urgaed)

Main statistical findings

Activity rates

With the exception of Israel, female activity rates across the ENP-South countries were considerably lower than those in the EU-28

The participation of women in the labour force in the ENP-South countries is generally low, although some countries have a range of initiatives designed to promote, empower and mobilise women’s participation. It should also be noted that many women work within the family unit in these countries and there may be difficulties in measuring their labour input for official statistics, for example, when working in a family business or helping with agricultural activities.

In 2016, the EU-28 activity rate for women was 67.3 % (see Figure 1). Apart from Israel, where the female activity rate was 68.6 %, the female activity rate in the ENP-South countries was consistently lower than in the EU-28. One third or fewer of all women of working age were active in the labour force in the remaining ENP-South countries as female activity rates ranged from 33.3 % in Lebanon (2012 data) to 14.5 % in Jordan (2015 data).

These differences were in stark contrast to the rates recorded for men. The EU-28 male activity rate stood at 78.6 % in 2016, while the latest rates among the ENP-South countries were — with the exception of Jordan where the rate was 65.0 % (2015 data) — within 9 percentage points of this. The highest male activity rate was recorded in Lebanon, 79.4 % (2012 data), with rates above 75.0 % also recorded in Tunisia (2015 data), Israel and Morocco.

Employment rates

Apart from in Israel, the gender gap in employment rates was much larger in the ENP-South countries than in the EU-28

There was a narrowing of the employment gender gap in the EU-28 between 2006 and 2016, from 14 percentage points to 11 points (see Figure 2). With the exception of Israel (where the gap between the sexes was narrower than in the EU-28), employment rates for women were around 46 points lower than those for men in the remaining ENP-South countries for which data are available: Palestine, Morocco and Egypt.

Analysis of employment by economic activity

Agriculture, forestry and fishing as well as construction generally accounted for a higher share of the workforce in ENP-South countries than they did in the EU-28, with the exception of Israel

Table 1 shows an analysis of the structure of employment for 2006 and 2016. Within the EU-28, the services sector dominated the labour market and accounted for 71.6 % of those employed (aged 15 years and over) in 2016; its share of the total number of persons employed rose by 5.2 percentage points between 2006 and 2016. In Israel, 81.4 % of the workforce was employed in services, with the next highest share being considerably lower, 62.1 % in Palestine. Among the four ENP-South countries for which data are available, the lowest share of services in the workforce was recorded in Morocco, at two fifths (40.4 %).

All four of the ENP-South countries for which 2016 data are available reported shares for industry in their total workforces that were below the EU-28 average (17.3 %), with the 11.3 % share in Morocco the lowest of these.

Consequently, the employment shares of construction as well as agriculture, forestry and fishing in the ENP-South countries were generally higher than in the EU-28; in 2016, the one exception was Israel which recorded smaller shares for both of these activities. Close to two fifths (38.0 %) of the workforce in Morocco and more than a quarter of the workforce in Egypt (25.6 %) were employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing. The highest share of the workforce in construction was recorded for Palestine (16.5 %) and construction also employed more than one tenth of the workforce in Egypt.

The share of the workforce in agriculture, forestry and fishing fell between 2006 and 2016 in the EU-28 as it did between the years shown in Table 1 for Morocco and most notably Palestine (the only ENP-South countries with a long time series available). The shares of the labour force employed in construction and services expanded in both of these countries, while there were diverging developments concerning developments for employment in industry.

Unemployment rates

While the EU-28’s largest contractions in economic activity as a result of the global financial and economic crisis were recorded in 2009, labour markets often lag, and as a result it was not uncommon to see unemployment rates continuing to increase in 2010 and beyond. The unemployment rate for the EU-28 was almost unchanged between 2010 and 2011 (increasing from 9.5 % to 9.6 %), after which it increased to 10.4 % in 2012 and 10.8 % in 2013, before dropping back to 8.6 % by 2016.

Among the four ENP-South countries for which this data is available, Egypt reported a broadly similar development, with its unemployment rate rising from 8.7 % in 2008 to 13.2 % by 2013, before dropping back to 12.5 % in 2016. In Palestine, the unemployment rate fell between 2008 and 2011 before increasing through to 2014, after which it fell in 2015 and increased again in 2016: throughout this whole period the unemployment rate in Palestine remained high, always in excess of 20 %. In Morocco, the unemployment rate fell at a modest pace, down from 9.9 % in 2007 to 9.0 % in 2011, before increasing to 10.0 % by 2014 and then also falling back in 2015 and 2016. The time series for Israel is shorter but shows a clear downward pattern from a rate of 6.9 % in 2012 to 4.8 % in 2016. By the end of the time series available in Table 2, only Israel — among the ENP-South countries for which data are available — recorded a lower unemployment rate than the EU-28 in 2016.

Long-term unemployment rates (as presented in Table 3 for persons aged 15-74) are often cited as a key concern for policymakers, affecting social cohesion and, ultimately, economic growth. By 2016, the long-term unemployment rate of the EU-28 had dropped back to 3.9 % for men and 4.0 % for women. Israel was the only ENP-South country (among the three for which recent comparable data are available) that did not have higher long-term unemployment rates than the EU-28 in 2015. Note that the data presented in Table 3 for Morocco are not long-term unemployment rates, but the share of long-term unemployed people among all unemployed people.

In the EU-28, long-term unemployment rates were higher in 2016 than they had been in 2006 for men but not for women. In Israel and Palestine that latest long-term unemployment rates for 2016 were clearly lower than those at the beginning of the series shown in Table 3, whereas for Egypt the rates had clearly increased.

Unemployment rates analysed by educational attainment

In some ENP-South countries, people who are highly qualified appear to face difficulties finding work

In many developed world economies, including the EU-28, it is relatively common to find lower unemployment rates among the workforce with higher levels of educational attainment. In other words, an investment in education and training appears to reduce the risk of unemployment. A similar pattern was observed in Israel (see Table 4), where the unemployment rate in 2016 among those with a tertiary level of education was 3.2 %, less than half the rate recorded for those with at most a primary level of education (7.1 %).

By contrast, unemployment rates for those with a tertiary level of education reached a level in excess of one tenth of the labour force in the remaining three ENP-South countries for which data are available. In Egypt, Morocco and Palestine the highest unemployment rates analysed by educational attainment were recorded for those with a tertiary level of education. These differences may, at least in part, be explained by the difficulties faced by educated women in finding work in some of these countries, but may also be compounded by a higher proportion of jobs being concentrated in areas of the economy that are characterised as having relatively low productivity or a low level of skills. The highest unemployment rates among people with a tertiary level of education were recorded in Palestine (26.7 %).

Data sources and availability

The data for ENP-South countries are supplied by and under the responsibility of the national statistical authorities of each country on a voluntary basis. The data that are presented in this article result from an annual data collection cycle that has been established by Eurostat. No recent data are available from either Libya or Syria. These statistics are available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a range of different indicators covering most socio-economic areas.

Tables in this article use the following notation:

Value in italics     data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
: not available, confidential or unreliable value;
not applicable.


Labour market statistics are increasingly used to support policymaking and to provide an opportunity to monitor participation in the labour market. In the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis, these statistics have been used to monitor the knock-on effects of the crisis on labour markets which commonly lag behind fluctuations in economic output.

On 18 November 2015, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission jointly presented a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (SWD(2015) 500 final) which underlined a new approach for the EU in relation to its eastern and southern neighbours, based on stabilising the region in political, economic, and security-related terms.

In cooperation with its ENP partners, Eurostat has the responsibility ‘to promote and implement the use of European and internationally recognised standards and methodology for the production of statistics, necessary for developing and monitoring policy achievements in all policy areas’. Eurostat undertakes the task of coordinating EU efforts to increase the statistical capacity of the ENP countries. Additional information on the policy context of the ENP is provided here.

See also

Further Eurostat information



Population and social conditions (med_ps)
Employment (med_ps411)
Economic activity (med_ps412)
Employment characteristics (med_ps413)
Employment and economic activity branches (med_ps414)
Unemployment rate (med_ps421)
Unemployment rate by education level (med_ps422)
LFS main indicators (lfsi)
Employment and activity - LFS adjusted series (lfsi_emp)
Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (une)
LFS series - detailed annual survey results (lfsa)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links


  1. This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.