High-tech statistics - employment

Data extracted in August 2018. Planned article update: September 2019.

In 2017, 35 million people were employed in the manufacturing sector in the EU, of these, 2.4 million were employed in high-tech manufacturing.

One out of three employed in the high-tech sector was a woman in 2017.

Employment in high-tech manufacturing, EU and selected countries, 2017 (% of total employment)

This article analyses data on employment in high-technology (high-tech) sectors in the European Union (EU) and in some EFTA and candidate countries.

In the global race for competitive advantage, it is essential to create, exploit and commercialise new technologies. High-tech sectors and enterprises are key drivers of economic growth and productivity, and generally provide high value-added and well-paid employment.

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Employment in high-tech sectors

In 2017, 35 million people were employed in the manufacturing sector in the EU-28, a figure which represented 15.4 % of total employment. Of these, 2.4 million were employed in high-tech manufacturing, corresponding to 1.1 % of total employment. More than three times as many were employed in high-tech knowledge intensive services, which accounted for 3.0 % of total employment.

In 2017, employment in high tech manufacturing and services varied considerably from one country to another, when considered as proportion of total employment. In high-tech manufacturing, it ranged from 0.4 % in Cyprus to 3.1 % in Ireland. Differences in terms of the relative importance of high-tech knowledge-intensive services in total employment were also observed across countries, with the largest proportions among the EU Members in Ireland (5.4), Finland (4.7 %), Estonia (4.5 %) and Sweden (4.4 %), while the lowest values were observed in Greece (2.0 %) and Lithuania (2.1 %) (see Table 1). Turkey was the only country observed to display a value lower than 1 %.

Table 1: Employment in high-tech sectors, EU-28 and selected countries, 2017
Source: Eurostat (htec_emp_nat2)

Within the EU-28, the average annual growth rate (AAGR) for employment in high-tech services was positive over the 2008-2017 period. Compared with the manufacturing sector – where the average decrease was of 1.0 % a year – high-tech manufacturing recorded a slower fall equal to 0.5 % a year, on average. This decrease can be partially explained by the economic crisis, the impact of which was also observed in the services sector, which recorded only a moderate growth of 0.8 % a year, on average. At the same time, high-tech knowledge-intensive services showed some resilience to the crisis and recorded an average annual rise of 1.5 % in the number of jobs.

Some important differences among countries emerge when comparing employment changes, with significant growth on the one hand and equally significant decline on the other. Of the 34 countries observed, 18 registered a fall in employment in high-tech manufacturing in 2008-2017, with the largest fall (7.9 %) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (between 2011 and 2017), followed by a fall of 7.0 % in Turkey (2009 to 2017). Among the Member States, the largest fall was registered in Finland (4.3 %), followed by the Netherlands (3.7 %). Growth in high tech manufacturing was observed in Romania with a 3.4 % growth rate, leading the following ten countries: Austria (2.4 %), Malta (1.9 %), the Czech Republic (1.5 %), Slovenia and Germany (both 1.4 %), Cyprus (1.3 %), Poland and Latvia (both 0.2 %), Denmark (0.1 %) as well as Switzerland (1.1 %). The loss in high-tech knowledge-intensive services was much more moderate, with only three countries registering a decline, namely: Greece (-0.3 %), the Netherlands (-0.2 %) as well as Montenegro (-0.6 %). The best-performing countries in terms of employment growth in high-tech knowledge-intensive services were Estonia (10.6 %), Romania (6.8 %), Slovakia (5.8 %) as well as Turkey (8.3 %) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (7.6 %).

Overall, roughly one out of three employees in the high-tech sectors was a woman in 2017. However, the share of women was different in manufacturing and services. There were more women employed in high-tech manufacturing (38.5 %) than in manufacturing ( 29.6 %). Five countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia and Slovakia) reported that 50 % or more of those employed in high-tech manufacturing were women.

In the high-tech knowledge-intensive services, the proportion of women (30.5 %) was lower than in the total service sector (54.3 %). No countries achieved a gender balance; the lowest proportions were recorded in the Netherlands (24.4 %) and Belgium (24.9 %) as well as in Turkey (23.1 %). On the other hand, women were relatively strongly represented in Lithuania (40.3 %), Bulgaria (38.6 %), Romania (37.3 %) as well as in Montenegro (37.8 %) and Iceland (36.7 %). In particular, the activities computer programming, scientific research and development, telecommunications and corresponding occupations still seem to attract more men than women.

Employment in knowledge - intensive activities (KIA)

In 2017, about 80.1 million people were employed in knowledge-intensive activities (KIA) in the EU-28, which represented 36.1 % of total employment. Luxembourg recorded the highest proportion (49 %). At the other end of the scale, the figure ranged from 29.5 % in Poland to the lowest registered of 21.2 % in Turkey.

In terms of employment growth, Malta as well as Turkey saw annual increases of over 4 % between 2008 and 2017 (2009 for Turkey). The biggest decrease (-0.9 % per year) was registered by Greece during this period (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Average annual growth rate of employment in KIA in 2008-2017, in %
Source: Eurostat (htec_kia_emp2)

In 2017, women accounted for 56.5 % of employment in knowledge-intensive activities (KIA) in the EU-28, as compared with 44.4 % in total employment (all sectors): women outnumbered men in all countries except Luxembourg, Malta and Turkey. For the knowledge-intensive activities in business industries (KIABI), the employment situation was more gender balanced. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia registered a majority of women.

High-tech employment at regional level

At EU-28 level, high-tech sectors (high tech manufacturing and high-tech knowledge-intensive services) accounted for 4 % of total employment in 2017, with about three-quarters occupied in high-tech knowledge-intensive services and one-quarter in high-tech manufacturing.

Figure 2 shows regional discrepancies in high-tech sectors as a proportion of total employment. For each country, it shows the national average and the regions with the lowest and highest proportions of employment in high-tech sectors [1].

Figure 2: Regional disparities in employment in high-tech sectors as a percentage of total employment (NUTS 2 level), 2017
Source: Eurostat (htec_emp_reg2) and (htec_emp_nat2)

At national level, 18 of the 33 observed countries registered values above the EU-28 average (4 %), with rates of over 5 % in Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Malta, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, as well as in Iceland and Switzerland. The lowest national figures (high-tech sectors accounting for 2.5 % or less of total employment) were registered in Greece and Lithuania (both 2.5 %) as well as in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2.1 %) and in Turkey (1.1 %) .

At regional level, high employment in high-tech sectors is often observed in capital regions or regions close to capitals. The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire region of the United Kingdom, which is close to London, stands out with 10.9 % of its labour force in high-tech sectors. Other examples are Bratislavský kraj (Slovakia) with 10.6 %, Bucuresti-Ilfov (Romania) with 9.6 %, Helsinki-Uusimaa (Finland) with 9.4 %, and Praha (Czech Republic) with 9.2 %. By contrast, the lowest proportions (under 1 %) were registered in Kentriki Ellada (Greece), Sud-Vest Oltenia (Romania) as well as in Ortadogu Anadolu (Turkey). Romania, the United Kingdom, Norway and Turkey showed the largest regional variation (ratio of highest to lowest proportion), while the smallest was observed in Croatia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Statistics on high-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (‘high-tech statistics’) comprise economic, employment, and science, technology and innovation (STI) data on manufacturing and service industries or products traded broken down by technological intensity. The domain uses various other domains and sources of official Eurostat statistics (CIS, COMEXT, LFS, SBS, PATSTAT and R&D), on which its coverage is therefore dependent.

Data on high-tech employment come from the EU Labour Force Survey (LFS). Employed people are defined as persons aged between 15 and 74 who performed work during the reference week, even for just one hour, for pay, profit or family gain, or had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent, e.g. because of illness, holidays, industrial dispute or education and training.

The data are aggregated according to the sectoral approach base on the statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE) at 2-digit level. Due to the move from NACE Rev. 1.1 to NACE Rev. 2, the definition of high tech industries and knowledge-intensive services changed in 2008. For high-tech statistics, this means that two different definitions (one according to NACE Rev. 1.1 and one according to NACE Rev. 2) are used in parallel and figures are presented in separate tables depending on data availability.

The KIA employment indicator was developed to offer a harmonised means across all sectors of comparing economies with respect to knowledge intensity. An activity is classified as knowledge-intensive if employment of persons with a tertiary education represents more than a third (33 %) of the total employment in that activity.

Statistics on R&D personnel are compiled using guidelines in the OECD’s 2002 Frascati Manual. R&D personnel include all persons employed directly in R&D and persons supplying direct services (such as managers, administrative staff and clerical staff). For statistical purposes, indicators on R&D personnel are compiled as both head counts (HC) and full-time equivalents (FTEs). A sub-category of R&D personnel, the researchers, are professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems, and in the management of related projects.


In the context of economic globalisation, technology is a key factor in enhancing growth and competitiveness in business. High-tech industries are expanding most strongly in international trade and their dynamism helps to improve performance in other sectors.

Investment in research, development, innovation and skills constitutes a key policy area for the EU as it is essential to economic growth and to the development of a knowledge-based economy.

Research, development, science and technology have been acknowledged as factors of growing competitiveness, better and better-paid jobs, greater social cohesion and a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. There is a need to measure progress and achievements in relation to the goals identified first in the Lisbon strategy and redefined in the Europe 2020 strategy.

The production and development of statistics on science and technology are governed by Decision No 1608/2003/EC [2], which highlights the need for comparable data on research and development, technological innovation, and science and technology. The aim is to create an information system on science, technology and innovation that can support and monitor implementation of the various EU policies in this area.

In 2004, the Commission adopted Regulation (EC) No 753/2004[3], which complements Decision No 1608/2003/EC by setting out a framework for the standards, definitions and classifications used in the production of science and technology statistics.

In the light of developments affecting science and technology statistics and of demand for new and more detailed and frequent statistics, new implementing measures were laid down in 2012, in Regulation (EU) No 995/2012[4].

High-tech statistics are based principally on an effective use (also within the European Statistical System) of existing national and international data sources. This also involves identifying and classifying activities and products, and measuring the economic performance of the activities and their contribution to the performance of the economy as a whole.

Launched in 2010, the Europe 2020 strategy sets out a vision of Europe’s social market economy for the 21st century, underpinned by three mutually reinforcing priorities:

  • smart growth: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation;
  • sustainable growth: promoting a more resource-efficient, greener and more competitive economy; and
  • inclusive growth: fostering a high-employment economy, delivering social and geographical cohesion.

The European Commission is further boosting the Europe 2020 strategy with seven flagship initiatives, one of which, the Innovation Union in support of ‘smart growth’, is aimed at improving the framework for research and innovation in the EU. Over 30 action points have been published. For example, the Innovation Union prioritises a gender balance in research careers in the European Research Area. It recommends that Member States take gender and dual-career considerations fully into account in their national R&D strategies.

Regional policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020, a Commission Communication published in 2010, shows how, by targeting investment in innovation in all regions, EU regional funding is crucial to achieving growth. A key element is encouraging national and regional governments to design ‘smart specialisation strategies’ to help regions identify their best assets. Concentrating resources on a limited number of priorities will ensure a more effective use of public funds and help to raise levels of private investment.

On 13 September 2013, following a request from the European Council, the Commission adopted its Communication Measuring innovation output: towards a new indicator. The indicator in question measures the extent to which ideas from innovative sectors are able to reach the market, thus providing better jobs and making Europe more competitive. Making use of several of Eurostat’s science, technology and innovation (STI) statistics and concepts, it supports the benchmarking of national innovation policies and shows up significant differences between EU countries.

The Europe 2020 strategy includes trade-opening initiatives for ̒sectors of the future̕, including high-tech products and services.

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High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (t_htec)

High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (htec)
Economic data on high-tech industry and and knowledge-intensive services (HTEC) (htec_eco)
Employment statistics in high-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (HTEC) (htec_emp)
Knowledge Intensive Activities (htec_kia)
Science and technology in high-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (HTEC) (htec_sti)


  1. Figures for six EU Member States (Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta) and Iceland are available at country level only.
  2. Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 July 2003 concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology (OJ L 230, 16.9.2003, p. 1).
  3. Commission Regulation (EC) No 753/2004 of 22 April 2004 implementing Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards statistics on science and technology (OJ L 118, 23.4.2004, p. 23).
  4. Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 995/2012 of 26 October 2012 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology (OJ L 299, 27.10.2012, p. 18).