Living conditions in Europe - labour conditions
Data extracted in November 2017
No planned update
In 2016 , more than one quarter (27.7 %) of the EU population in single person households with dependent children lived in households with very low work intensity.
In 2016, the risk of poverty decreased as work intensity increased: from 43.3 % among those people living in EU households with low work intensity to a low of 5.9 % for people living in households with very high work intensity.
Almost half of all young adults in the EU aged 18-34 were living with their parents in 2016.
This article is part of a set of statistical articles that forms Eurostat’s flagship publication, Living conditions in Europe - 2018 edition. Each article helps provide a comprehensive and up-to-date summary of living conditions in Europe, presenting some key results from the European Union’s (EU’s) statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), which is conducted across EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries. This is the second edition of the publication: it was initially released as a paper only publication in 2015 (cat. no. KS-DZ-14-001).
This article presents statistics related to living conditions experienced by Europeans. It offers a picture of everyday lives across the EU, focusing on labour market conditions, which may potentially have a profound impact on living standards; the information presented provides an analysis of work intensity, income distribution, the share of young working adults still living at home, or the risk of poverty. In 2016, very low work intensity mainly affected those people living in single person households (aside from those households with at least one senior member aged 65 years or over). There appears to be a clear link between work intensity and the risk of poverty, insofar as the risk of poverty declined to 10.1 % among the population aged less than 60 living in households characterised by high work intensity and was even lower (5.9 %) for households characterised by very high work intensity.
The share of young adults (aged 18-34 years) in the EU-28 still living with their parents rose slightly between 2007 and 2016, when it stood at 54.1 % among young men and 41.7 % among young women. The majority of these young adults were either employed or students, while their decision to continue living with their parents may be influenced by the precarious nature of their employment, insofar as almost half (46.5 %) of young adults living with their parents had a temporary employee contract.
Very low work intensity affected mainly persons living in single person households
The main income source for most households and therefore the main determinant of its economic situation is the employment status of its members.
Very low work intensity is one of the three components of the Europe 2020 poverty and social exclusion indicator (see this article for more information). Work intensity is defined as the ratio between the number of months that household members of working age (defined here as people aged 18-59 years, excluding dependent children aged 18-24 years) actually worked during the income reference year and the total number of months that they could theoretically have worked. People living in households with very low work intensity are defined as those where working members provided no more than 20 % of their total potential work during the previous 12 month period.
In 2016, some 14.4 % of the EU-28 population aged less than 60 that was living in households without children were members of a household with very low work intensity (see Table 1). This rate ranged among the EU Member States between 6.9 % in Slovakia and 25.7 % in Greece.
More than one fifth (22.1 %) of the EU-28 population aged less than 60 who were living alone had a very low level of work intensity in 2016. While this share was higher than the average for the total population living in households without children (14.4 %), it was, unsurprisingly, less than the share recorded for the population aged less than 60 who were living in households composed of two adults, at least one of which was aged 65 years or over (37.5 %).
The share of the EU-28 population with very low work intensity was lower among those people aged less than 60 who were living in households with children. In 2016, the overall share of this subpopulation living in households with very low work intensity was 8.3 %, with even lower shares recorded for those people living in households composed of two or more adults with dependent children (6.3 %) or two adults with one dependent child (6.0 %). By contrast, more than one quarter (27.7 %) of the population living in single person households with dependent children were living in households with very low work intensity.
The share of the population aged less than 60 and living in a household with children and with very low work intensity ranged among the EU Member States from 2.9 % in Luxembourg (2015 data) and less than 5.0 % in Estonia, Slovenia and Poland, up to more than 10.0 % in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria and Ireland (2015 data), where the highest share was recorded, at 18.3 %.
Across the EU-28, the share of the population aged less than 60 and living alone in households with very low work intensity (22.1 %) was somewhat lower in 2016 than the corresponding share recorded for those people living in single person households with dependent children (27.7 %). This pattern was repeated across the majority of the EU Member States, although there were eight exceptions where very low work intensity was more prevalent among those living on their own and without children. The presence of dependent children had a particularly large impact on the share of the population living in households with very low work intensity in Belgium, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Malta and Cyprus, as rates were at least 10.0 percentage points higher than those recorded for single persons living alone (without children).
Across the EU-28 in 2016, some 13.3 % of the foreign-born population aged 18-59 was living in a household with very low work intensity; this share was 2.6 percentage points higher than the corresponding share for the nationally-born population (10.7 %) — see Figure 1.
There was no clear pattern evident between these two rates in 2016 across the 27 EU Member States for which data are available (incomplete data for Romania). In 18 of the Member States, a higher share of the foreign-born population was living in households with very low work intensity; this gap was particularly wide in Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland. By contrast, in nine of the Member States a lower share of foreign-born (rather than nationally-born) citizens were living in households with very low work intensity; this gap was widest in Hungary, the United Kingdom and Italy (2015 data).
Risk of poverty decreases considerably as work intensity rises
The next section focuses on the impact that work intensity may have in relation to the risk of poverty. Several governments across the EU have focused on getting people back into work as a key policy for alleviating the risk of poverty, through initiatives that are designed to ‘make work pay’; for example, introducing changes to welfare and tax systems that encourage people to work (more).
The work intensity of each household is unsurprisingly closely related to its income: generally, the higher the number of working people from a single household and the longer they work, the greater the chance that they may earn a decent wage, thereby guaranteeing a certain level of income and standard of living.
In 2016, the EU-28 at-risk-of-poverty rate for people aged less than 60 living in households with very low work intensity was 60.0 %; this share ranged from 41.3 % in Luxembourg to more than three quarters of the population in Slovakia and the three Baltic Member States (see Map1).
In 2016, the risk of poverty decreased as work intensity increased: falling from 43.3 % among those people living in EU-28 households with low work intensity, to 22.5 % for people living in households with medium work intensity, to 10.1 % for people living in households with high work intensity and reaching a low of 5.9 % for people living in households with very high work intensity; the definitions for each of these categories are provided in Figure 2.
A similar pattern to that recorded for the EU-28 was repeated in each of the EU Member States in 2016, with the exception of Denmark, where the lowest risk of poverty was recorded for people living in households with medium work intensity.
Across much of the EU, the risk of in-work poverty was lower for women (rather than men)
The risk of poverty is not exclusively restricted to inactive or retired persons and those who choose to work a relatively short amount of time each week. Indeed, the risk of poverty extends to those in work: in 2016, almost 1 in 10 (9.6 %) persons aged 18 and over living in the EU-28 was at risk of poverty despite being in work. Note that the risk of poverty faced by an individual is assessed taking into account the total income of the household in which they live (and is therefore not directly linked to their personal income, but a broader measure covering the whole household).
In 2016, the share of the EU-28 male population aged 18 and over that was in work and at risk of poverty was higher (10.0 %) than the corresponding share for the female population (9.1 %) — see Figure 3.
In 2016, the same pattern was repeated in 24 of the EU Member States, as the only exceptions were the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary and especially Germany (where the female in-work at-risk-of-poverty rate was 2.9 percentage points higher than that for men). The gap between male and female in-work at-risk-of-poverty rates was greatest in Romania, where the rate among men was 6.3 percentage points higher than the rate for women. The gender gap was at least 3.0 points — again with higher rates for men — in Malta, Bulgaria, Italy (2015 data) and Greece. These gaps may, at least in part, be influenced by the relatively low share of women in employment across much of southern Europe and the Balkans.
Modest increase of in-work risk of poverty between 2011 and 2016
The EU-28 in-work at-risk-of-poverty rate rose at a modest pace during the period 2011-2016, up from 8.8 % to 9.6 % (see Table 2). The highest risk of poverty was recorded among young adults in work (12.1 %), as rates fell as a function of age: to 9.7 % for those employed and aged 25-54 years, 8.6 % for those employed and aged 55-64 years, and 8.5 % for those employed and aged 65 and over.
There were considerable differences across the EU Member States: in almost half (13 out of 28), the highest in-work at-risk-of-poverty rates in 2016 were recorded for young adults aged 18-24 years; in Poland, the risk of in-work poverty was identical for young adults aged 18-24 years and for people aged 25-54 years. There were four EU Member States where the highest in-work at-risk-of-poverty rates were recorded among the population aged 25-54 years and four (other) Member States where the highest rates were recorded among the population aged 55-64 years; all eight of these Member States were characterised by relatively low risks of poverty insofar as their highest rates never exceeded 11.0 %. There were six Member States where the highest in-work at-risk-of-poverty rates were recorded for the population aged 65 and over: they had a greater degree of variation, from a low of 5.0 % in Finland up to 20.5 % in Greece and 43.6 % in Romania. The wide disparities across Member States between in-work at-risk-of-poverty rates for the elderly may reflect some elderly people choosing to remain in employment beyond the age of 65 as a lifestyle choice, in contrast to others who might continue to work more out of (economic) necessity.
More than one third of the EU-28 working-age population saw a notable change in their income
This section refers exclusively to income derived from employment and analyses income transitions within the working-age population. To do so, information on income levels is ranked and then divided into 10 separate groups of equal size — each of these is called a decile. The income that an individual receives may vary from one year to the next and this is especially true when people change jobs or if they adjust their usual working hours, but may also occur as a result of changes to their responsibilities/seniority, or may simply reflect an annual pay rise or a bonus payment. As such, the position that people occupy within the overall distribution of income varies over time, either due to changes in their own income or changes for the rest of the working population. It is likely that there will be a greater number of transitions between income deciles in those economies that are characterised by flexible labour markets or a rapid pace of economic change.
In 2016, more than one third (37.7 %) of the EU-28 working-age population (defined here as people aged 16-64 years) was confronted by a change in their income decile (when compared with the previous year). Those that moved up at least one income decile accounted for 20.5 % of the working-age population, while those that moved down at least one decile accounted for 17.3 % — among which 3.7 % were confronted by a transition to no income (which may occur, among others, from being made unemployed, enrolling in education or training, taking a career break, or caring for a relative); the remaining 62.3 % of the EU-28’s working-age population had no change in their income decile (see Figure 4).
Map 2 and Map 3 provide more information in relation to upward and downward income transitions among the working-age populations of the EU Member States in 2016. The highest shares for upward income transitions (of at least one decile) were recorded in Bulgaria, Sweden and the United Kingdom (2015 data), while the highest shares for downward income transitions were recorded in Bulgaria, Latvia and Estonia.
Almost half of all young adults aged 18-34 were living with their parents
Leaving the parental home is an important event in many people’s lives and can be viewed as part of the transition or passage (of rites) from childhood to adulthood — a journey which includes, among others, the completion of education, becoming an active participant in the labour force, achieving economic and cultural independence, and forming other relationships or one’s own family unit.
The decision to live independently out of the parental home is increasingly affected by the security of employment and the price/availability of accommodation (for rent or sale). Between 2007 and 2016, the share of young adults (defined here as those aged 18-34 years) in the EU-28 who were living with their parents increased slightly, from 46.9 % to 48.0 % (see Figure 5).
In 2016, more than half (54.1 %) of all young men in the EU-28 continued to live with their parents, while the corresponding share for young women was lower, at 41.7 %. The share of young men and young women who continued to live with their parents rose during the period 2007 to 2016, the share for young men rose by 1.0 percentage points, while that for young women increased by 1.2 points.
A more detailed analysis is presented in Table 3, which provides information for two subpopulations of young adults (namely those aged 18-24 and those aged 25-34). Across the EU-28, the share of 18-24 year-olds that continued to live with their parents during the period 2011-2016 rose marginally from 79.3 % to 79.6 %, while there was also a small increase in the proportion of 25-34 year-olds who lived with their parents, their share rising from 27.9 % to 28.5 %.
In 2016, the share of young adults aged 18-24 still living with their parents was less than 50.0 % in Denmark and Finland, while less than two thirds of this age group were still living with their parents in Sweden and the United Kingdom. At the other end of the range, at least 9 out of every 10 young persons aged 18-24 years was still living with their parents in Luxembourg (2015 data), Cyprus, Slovenia, Spain, Malta, Slovakia, Croatia and Italy (2015 data), where the highest share was recorded, at 94.5 %.
Turning to young adults aged 25-34, all three Nordic Member States reported in 2016 that less than 10 % of this subpopulation continued to live with their parents, while there were five western EU Member States where less than one fifth of all adults aged 25-34 were still living with their parents. By contrast, there were five southern and eastern Member States where more than half of all young adults aged 25-34 continued to live with their parents, they were: Italy (50.6 %; 2015 data), Malta (51.5 %), Greece (54.8 %), Slovakia (55.5 %) and Croatia (58.7 %).
An analysis of developments for the share of young adults living with their parents between 2011 and 2016 reveals there were eight EU Member States where the share of both age groups continuing to live at home declined — this was the case in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. On the other hand, there were 14 Member States where the share of both age groups continuing to live at home increased — this was particularly true in Belgium, Greece, Spain, France and Italy (2011-2015).
The highest share of young adults still living with their parents were students
In 2016, students accounted for almost two fifths (38.0 %) of the young adults (aged 18-34) in the EU-28 who continued to live with their parents. The next highest share of young adults continuing to live with their parents was recorded among those in full-time employment (35.37 %), while 13.6 % were unemployed; 7.4 % were in part-time employment, and 5.7 % were inactive (see Figure 6).
In 2016, more than half of all the young adults who continued to live with their parents in Sweden (51.3 %), the Netherlands (53.4 %), Belgium (53.9 %) and Denmark (55.6 %) were students; this share fell to less than one quarter in Bulgaria (24.9 %), the United Kingdom (24.1 %) and Malta (23.9 %).
In a similar vein, more than half of all the young adults who continued to live with their parents in Slovakia (57.1 %) and Malta (60.1 %) were in full-time employment, while the unemployed accounted for more than 1 in 5 young adults who continued to live with their parents in Italy (20.1 %; 2015 data), Spain (21.1 %), Croatia (22.5 %) and particularly Greece (30.6 %).
A growing share of young employed adults who continued to live with their parents were employed on a temporary basis
In 2016, a relatively high share (46.5 %) of young adult employees in the EU-28 who were still living with their parents had a temporary employment contract (Figure 7). This share was often much higher, as more than half of all the young adult employees living with their parents in 10 of the EU Member States in 2016 had a temporary employee contract; this share almost reached three quarters (74.1 %) in Spain.
By contrast, the share of young adult employees still living with their parents who had a temporary employee contract was much lower in the Baltic Member States, Romania and the United Kingdom.
A closer analysis for two different groups of young adults in the EU-28 shows that there was an increase between 2011 and 2016 in the share of young adult employees still living with their parents who had a temporary contract (see Table 4). By 2016, a majority (55.9 %) of this subpopulation aged 18-24 years had a temporary employee contract, while the corresponding share for young adult employees aged 25-34 years with a temporary employee contract was 37.7 %.
Source data for tables and graphs
The data used in this section are primarily derived from data from EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). EU-SILC is carried out annually and is the main survey that measures income and living conditions in Europe, and is the main source of information used to link different aspects relating to the quality of life at the household and individual level.
The reference population is all private households and their current members residing in the territory of an EU Member State at the time of data collection; persons living in collective households and in institutions are generally excluded from the target population. The EU-28 aggregate is a population-weighted average of individual national figures.
- Regulation (EC) No 1177/2003 — framework regulation — this is the central piece of legislation which sets up the whole EU-SILC instrument
- Detailed list of legislative information on EU-SILC provisions for survey design, survey characteristics, data transmission and ad-hoc modules