The EU in the world - labour market
Data extracted in April 2018.
Planned article update: June 2020.
The male youth unemployment rate in the EU increased between 2007 and 2017.
For the majority of G20 members the lowest unemployment rates in 2016 were recorded for people with a tertiary education.
Close to two thirds of the unemployed in South Africa in 2017 had been unemployed for a year or more.
The article focuses on labour market statistics in the European Union (EU) and 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 EU’s 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.
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 employment rates. Furthermore, care should be taken if the data are not for the same year, as is the case in most of the analyses presented in this chapter.
Employment rateThe employment rate, calculated as the share of employed persons in the total population of working age (defined here as persons aged 15-64 years), was 67.6 % in 2017 in the EU-28. Between 2007 and 2017 the employment rate for the EU-28 increased 2.3 percentage points from 65.3 % (see Figure 1). The EU-28 employment rate in 2016 was roughly in the middle of a ranking of the G20 members. South Africa was the only G20 member where less than half of the working-age population were in employment in the latest year for which data are available, with a rate as low as 40.4 % in 2017. In the United States, Australia and Canada the employment rate was between 70 % and 75 %, while a rate of 75.3 % was recorded in Japan.
Between the two years shown in Figure 1 the employment rate fell by 6.4 points in India (between 2005 and 2012), far more than in any other G20 member; the next largest fall was 1.7 points in the United States. By contrast, the employment rate rose by 2.0 points or more in six European and Asian G20 members, with the highest increase in Turkey (up 6.9 points).The most recent data (see Figure 2) show that the EU-28’s employment rate for men (72.9 %) was lower than in most of the G20 members for which data are available in 2017, although it was just higher than in Turkey and considerably higher than in South Africa (note that data for the latter covers all men aged 15 years and over). Elsewhere, employment rates for men ranged from 73.4 % in Argentina (2014 data) to 79.7 % in Indonesia (2016 data), with Japan (82.9 %) above this range. For women the 62.4 % employment rate in the EU-28 was higher than the rates recorded in a majority of the other G20 members in 2017, although higher rates were recorded in Russia (2015 data), the United States, Japan and Australia, with a peak of 70.6 % recorded in Canada. By contrast, employment rates for women were close to or below one third in Saudi Arabia (2015 data), India (2012 data), Turkey and South Africa (all women aged 15 years and over), while the rates in Mexico and Argentina (2014 data) were also below one half.
The gender gap for the employment rate was 10.5 points in favour of men across the EU-28, with only Canada, Australia, Russia and the United States reporting narrower gaps. By far the largest gender gaps were in India and Saudi Arabia, both over 50 points.Focusing on older workers, those aged 55-64 years, Figure 3 looks at an age group that may have lower employment rates because of early retirement or because of difficulties returning to employment after being unemployed. In the EU-28, the overall employment rate for this age group was 57.1 % in 2017, 10.5 points lower than the employment rate for the whole working-age population. The gender gap in employment rates for older workers was 12.9 points in the EU-28, somewhat larger than the gap for the overall employment rate. These two characteristics — a lower employment rate for older workers and a larger gender gap for older workers — were common to most non-EU G20 members. Indonesia, South Korea and South Africa were the only G20 members to report a higher employment rate for older workers than for all people of working age (although there was no difference in the two rates in India), while only in Turkey was the gender gap narrower for older workers.secondary level of education; equally, each of the G20 members recorded a higher adult employment rate for the group of persons having completed tertiary education. The difference between the employment rates for these two different levels of education was 30.5 points across the EU-28 in 2016; this gap was only higher in South Africa and Russia (both 2015 data), whereas it was 15.0 points or less in Mexico, Indonesia (2015 data) and South Korea.
The unemployment rate is calculated as the number of unemployed persons as a proportion of economically active persons (otherwise referred to as the labour force, comprising all employed and unemployed persons). In 2017, the unemployment rate for persons aged 15-64 years in the EU-28 was 7.8 %. Among the other G20 members, the unemployment rate in 2017 ranged from 2.8 % in India (2012 data) to 7.2 % in Argentina (2014 data), with Turkey (11.1 %) and South Africa (27.3 %) above this range.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. Comparing the two years presented in Figure 5 the most recent unemployment rate was higher in half of the G20 members than the rate recorded for the earlier reference year and was consequently lower in the other half, although the differences in China and Saudi Arabia were very small. It should be remembered that the financial and economic crisis occurred between the years shown and in many G20 countries the unemployment rate initially increased strongly and then subsided during the period under consideration.
The overall effect of these changes in the EU-28 was that the unemployment rate was 0.6 points higher in 2017 than it had been in 2007. In Turkey, the rate in 2017 was 2.0 points higher than in 2007, while in South Africa it was 4.8 points higher. Elsewhere the difference was smaller or the unemployment rate in the latest year was lower than at the beginning of the period studied, with downward movements most notable in Japan, Brazil and Russia.In the EU-28, unemployment rates for men and women were relatively similar, 7.6 % for men and 8.0 % for women in 2017 (see Figure 6). In Australia, South Korea, Indonesia (2015 data), the United States and Japan, the difference between male and female unemployment rates was also less than 0.5 points in 2017. In most other G20 members, the gender gap was between 0.5 and 5.0 points, but in Saudi Arabia the unemployment rate for women was 18.6 points higher than for men (2016 data).
Male youth unemployment rate in the EU-28 increased between 2007 and 2017
The impact of the financial and economic crisis on youth unemployment rates attracted particular attention. The data presented in Figures 7 and 8 for young men and young women show the change in the youth unemployment between 2007 and 2017 (or the nearest available year). As for Figure 5 it should be borne in mind that unemployment rates rose sharply in many countries at the beginning of the crisis and have generally fallen since their peak. Furthermore, 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 not available for work, while some may undertake other activities outside of the labour market, such as travel or voluntary work.
A small majority of G20 members (for which data are available) recorded higher youth unemployment rates in the latest year shown in Figures 7 and 8 than for the previous reference period shown, with Brazil (2007-2017; note there is a break in series) and South Africa (2008-2017) recording the largest percentage point increases.South Africa and Brazil had the highest male youth unemployment rates in 2017 among the G20 members, reflecting the large increases observed in the rates for these two countries over the last decade. In South Africa almost half (49.3 %) of the male youth labour force was unemployed in 2017, while in Brazil the rate was just over one quarter (26.5 %). The EU-28 had the fourth highest male youth unemployment rate (17.4 %). South Africa also had the highest female youth unemployment rate among the G20 members, as close to three fifths (58.7 %) of the female youth labour force was unemployed in 2017. Saudi Arabia had the second highest female youth unemployment rate (46.3 %; 2016 data). Five G20 members reported female youth unemployment rates below 10.0 % in 2017: Canada, South Korea, the United States, Mexico and Japan.
In a majority of G20 members the lowest unemployment rates in 2016 were recorded for persons having completed tertiary educationIn a small majority of G20 members, unemployment rates in 2016 were highest among persons aged 15-64 years who had completed at most a basic level of education. However, in Indonesia (2015 data), South Korea (2015 data) and Turkey the highest unemployment rates were recorded among persons having completed an intermediate level of education, while in India (2012 data) and Saudi Arabia (2014 data) the highest unemployment rates were recorded among persons having completed an advanced level of education (see Figure 9). Equally, a small majority of G20 members reported their lowest unemployment rates among persons who had completed an advanced level of education.
Close to two thirds of the unemployed in South Africa in 2017 had been unemployed for a year or morePersons 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, South Korea and Mexico reported that long-term unemployment accounted for less than 2.0 % of all unemployed persons in 2017 (see Figure 10). Elsewhere, this share ranged from 11.6 % in Canada to 28.5 % in Argentina (2014 data), with shares over one third in Russia (2016 data), Japan and India (2010 data), over two fifths in Saudi Arabia (2016 data) and the EU-28, and close to two thirds (66.5 %) in South Africa.
Source data for tables and graphs
The statistical data in this article were extracted during April 2018.
The indicators are often compiled according to international — sometimes worldwide — standards. Although most data are based on international concepts and definitions there may be certain discrepancies in the methods used to compile the data.
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 mainly been compiled by the International Labour Organisation with some data compiled by the OECD. 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 dataset for 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.
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- Key figures on the enlargement countries — 2017 edition
- Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) — A statistical portrait — 2016 edition
- Euro-Mediterranean statistics — 2015 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)
- Employment rates - LFS series (lfsa_emprt)
- Employment rates by sex, age and educational attainment level (%) (lfsa_ergaed)
- Full-time and part-time employment - LFS series (lfsa_empftpt)
- Part-time employment as percentage of the total employment, by sex and age (%) (lfsa_eppga)
- 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)
- Employment rates - LFS series (lfsa_emprt)