Last year, 89 million people aged 15 to 64 were economically inactive in the European Union (EU). In other words, slightly more than a quarter (27.1%) of the EU population aged 15-64 stood outside the labour market, being neither employed nor unemployed. This included people who were in education or training (35% of the inactive people), retired (16%), suffering from serious illness or disability (16%), or also those who were looking after children or incapacitated adults (10%). Women made up the majority of this economically active population group (60%). In total, almost 8 in 10 inactive people (78%) declared that they did not wish to work.
The level of education seemed to play a role, as the proportion of inactive people in the EU fell as educational levels rose among them. While almost half (47%) of those aged 15-64 with a low education level (at most lower secondary education) were inactive in 2016, this share decreased to 24% for those with a medium education level and fell to 12% when it came to the part of the population with a high education level (tertiary education).
Largest proportions of economically inactive people in Italy, lowest in Sweden
Across the EU Member States, Italy (35.1%) recorded the highest proportion of persons outside the labour market. It was followed by Croatia and Romania (both 34.4%), Belgium (32.4%) and Greece (31.8%).
At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest share was registered in Sweden (17.9%), ahead of Denmark (20.0%) and the Netherlands (20.3%). It should be noted that the proportion of economically inactive people was higher among women than men in every EU Member State, although the proportions differed from state to state.
The source dataset can be found here.
For more information
Eurostat website section dedicated to the EU Labour Force Survey (LFS).
Eurostat database on EU-LFS results.
Main concepts and definitions of the EU-LFS.