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Which sector is the main employer in the EU Member States?

24/10/2017

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In 2016, almost half of employment in the European Union (EU) was concentrated in two economic activities: "Wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services" (24.7%) and "Public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities" (23.7%). Both activities have seen their respective share in total employment increase slightly over the last 20 years. In contrast, the share of industry in EU employment fell from 20.7% in 1996 to 15.3% in 2016, while the share of "Professional, scientific and technical activities" in employment rose from 7.6% to 12.7%.

This information, based on basic breakdowns of employment by 10 economic activities, complements the news item published yesterday on the output of economic activities. An interactive infographic on the share of economic activities in the EU is also available on the Eurostat website.

 

Share of 10 main economic activities in the EU total employment, 1996 and 2016 (%)

The source dataset can be found here.

 

Industry, largest employer only in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia

In the majority of Member States, "Wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services" was the economic activity providing the most employment in 2016. The highest percentages were observed in Greece (33.3% of total employment), Cyprus (31.9%), Spain (30.3%) and Ireland (28.5%). In seven Member States, "Public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities" came top, notably in Sweden (34.1%), Denmark (30.8%), Belgium (30.6%) and France (30.1%). Industry was the main employer in the Czech Republic (29.0%), Poland (23.7%) and Slovenia (22.7%), while agricultural activity was still the largest employer in Romania (24.0%).

 

Share of "Public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities" in total employment In the EU, 2016 (%)

The source dataset can be found here.

 

Share in employment of both industry and agriculture down in all Member States

Significant changes in employment over the last 20 years took place mainly in industry, public administration and agriculture. Compared with 1996, the share of industry in total employment had decreased in all EU Member States by 2016, with the largest falls recorded in Malta (from 26.0% in 1996 to 11.9% in 2016, or -14.1 pp), Slovenia (-8.9 pp), the United Kingdom (-7.7 pp) and Luxembourg (-7.3 pp).

A similar trend can be observed for "Agriculture, forestry and fishing". Its share in employment decreased between 1996 and 2016 in every EU Member State. The largest fall was recorded in Romania (from 40.9% to 24.0%, or -16.9 pp), followed by Lithuania (-12.6 pp), Hungary (-9.6 pp), Latvia (-7.1 pp) and Greece (-6.8 pp).

In contrast, the share of "Public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities" has increased in most Member States over the last 20 years, and most strongly in Romania (from 7.2% to 13.6%, or +6.4 pp), Slovenia (+4.5 pp), Luxembourg (+4.2 pp), Belgium (+4.0 pp), Greece (+3.5 pp) and Portugal (+3.4 pp). It decreased in Bulgaria (-3.3 pp), Italy (-1.2 pp), Slovakia (-0.9 pp), Lithuania (-0.7 pp), Sweden (-0.5 pp) and France (-0.3 pp).

At EU level, the share of both industry (-5.4 pp) and agriculture (-4.0 pp) in total employment decreased between 1996 and 2016, while that of public administration increased by 1.6 pp.