Labour market statistics - professional status
Data extracted in May 2020.
Planned article update: June 2021.
This article gives an overview of the main features of the labour force, which includes employed and unemployed people. It then focuses on the male and female employed population aged 15-74 and their professional status, i.e. employees, self-employed and contributing family workers.
It is based on the results from the European Union Labour force survey (EU-LFS) for the European Union (EU) as a whole, for all EU Member States individually, as well as for the United Kingdom, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and four candidate countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey).
This article complements the articles Employment - annual statistics, Employment rates and Europe 2020 national targets, Labour market slack – annual statistics on unmet needs for employment, Unemployment statistics and beyond and Labour market and household statistics. Additional information about self-employed persons can be found in the article Self-employment statistics.
The umbrella of the labour force
In 2019, there were 332.3 million persons aged 15-74 in the EU-27, and 213.8 million of them were part of the labour force, also called workforce or (economically) active population; 118.5 million were consequently outside the labour force, or economically inactive, such as pre-school children, school children, students and pensioners.
In the labour force, 199.4 million persons were in employment , while 14.4 million were unemployed. Furthermore, among employed persons, 169.5 million, which constitutes the vast majority, were employees while 28.0 million were self-employed with or without employees and 2.0 million were family workers.
Figures for the above-mentioned sub-populations for the year 2019 for the EU-27 as a whole are displayed in Infographic 1, which also presents the corresponding figures for each Member State, the United Kingdom and each EFTA and candidate country conducting the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), i.e. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
Majority of employed people are employees
Out of all the people in employment in 2019, the vast majority are employees, 85.0 % of the EU-27 population aged 15-74 (Figure 1). In all EU Member States, employees outnumber self-employed persons by a wide margin. In 2019, five countries had more than nine employees out of ten employed people (Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany and Sweden as well as the EFTA country Norway). By contrast, the share of employees in the employed population was below 75 percent in Greece, as well as in the candidate countries Serbia and Turkey.
One in ten (9.8 %) persons in employment were self-employed without employees (own-account workers) and 4.3 % were self-employed with employees (employers) in the EU-27 in 2019. However, the results differ substantially between countries: in Greece own-account workers make up 21.3 % of people in employment while in Luxembourg, the same group accounts for only 4.5 % of people in employment. Self-employed persons with employees are less common than own-account workers in all countries, ranging from 1.1 % in Romania to 7.4 % in Greece.
In 2019, in the EU-27, 48.0 % of employees (15-74 years) were women, and 52.0 % were men (Figure 2). Consequently, the European Union was close to the gender balance for the rate of employees. However, differences exist between EU Member States: in 2019, the share of women among employees ranged from 52.4 % in Lithuania to 43.8 % in Malta and Romania.
When it comes to self-employed people, the picture changes markedly, especially for the self-employed with employees. At EU level, there were about two male self-employed without employees for each female self-employed without employees in 2019 (34.8 % of self-employed persons without employees were women) and almost three male self-employed with employees for each female self-employed with employees (26.7 % of self-employed persons with employees were women). Among the EU Member States, Latvia recorded the highest share of female self-employed with (34.9 %) and without (48.4 %) employees. By contrast, Sweden reported the lowest share of female self-employed with employees (19.7 %) and Ireland had the lowest share of female employed without employees (24.3 %).
Source data for tables and graphs
Source: The European Union Labour Force Survey (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. Conscripts in military or community service are not included in the results. The EU-LFS is based on the same target populations and uses the same definitions in all countries, which means that the results are comparable between the countries.
Reference period: Yearly results are obtained as averages of the four quarters in the year.
Coverage: The results from the survey currently cover all European Union Member States, the United Kingdom, the EFTA Member States of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, as well as the candidate countries Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. For Cyprus, the survey covers only the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.
European aggregates: EU refers to the sum of EU-27 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 and Italy, 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.
Five different articles on detailed technical and methodological information is linked from the overview page EU labour force survey.
Main concepts: Some main employment characteristics, as defined by the EU LFS, include:
- employees are defined as those who work for a public or private employer and who receive compensation in the form of wages, salaries, payment by results, or payment in kind; non-conscript members of the armed forces are also included;
- self-employed persons work in their own business, farm or professional practice. A self-employed person is considered to be working during the reference week if she/he meets one of the following criteria: works for the purpose of earning profit; spends time on the operation of a business; or is currently establishing a business.
Employment statistics can be used for a number of different analyses, including macroeconomic (looking at labour as a production factor), productivity or competitiveness studies. They can also be used to study a range of social and behavioural aspects related to an individual’s employment situation, such as the social integration of minorities, or employment as a source of household income.
Employment is both a structural indicator and a short-term indicator. As a structural indicator, it may shed light on the structure of labour markets and economic systems, as measured through the balance of labour supply and demand, or the quality of employment. As a short-term indicator, employment follows the business cycle; however, it has limits in this respect, as employment is often referred to as a lagging indicator.
In November 2017, the European Pillar of Social Rights has been jointly signed by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Employment and social policies are the main fields of interest of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which is about delivering new and more effective rights for citizens. It has 3 main categories: (1) Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, (2) Fair working conditions and (3) Social protection and inclusion. In particular, today's more flexible working arrangements provide new job opportunities especially for the young but can potentially give rise to new precariousness and inequalities. Building a fairer Europe and strengthening its social dimension is a key priority for the Commission. The European Pillar of Social Rights is accompanied by a ‘social scoreboard’ which will monitor the implementation of the Pillar by tracking trends and performances across EU countries in 12 areas and will feed into the European Semester of economic policy coordination. The scoreboard will also serve to assess progress towards a social ‘triple A’ for the EU as a whole.
The EU-LFS is an important source of information about the situation and trends in the national and EU labour markets. 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.