Labour market in 2020


In 2020, the labor market in the EU was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The employment rate for persons aged 20-64 dropped to 72.4%, down by 0.7 percentage points (pp) in comparison to 2019. The employment rate for men of that age group stood at 78.1%, down from 79.0% in 2019. The employment rate for women was 66.8%, down from 67.3%. This development led to a further decrease in the gender employment gap, to 11.3 pp, in comparison to 11.7 pp in 2019.

This information comes from recently published data on the labor market in 2020. In addition, today Eurostat publishes further detailed breakdowns of the annual estimates for 2020.

Employment rate of people aged 20-64 in the EU (2002-2020,%)

Source datasets: lfsi_emp_a

Among the Member States, all but three Member States recorded a decline in the employment rate between 2019 and 2020. Sweden showed the highest employment rate at 80.8%, while the lowest was observed in Greece with 61.1%. The largest drops in the employment rate between 2019 and 2020 were recorded in Spain (-2.3 pp to 65.7%), Ireland (-1.7 pp to 73.4%), and Bulgaria (-1.6 pp to 73.4%). The increases were observed in Malta (+0.6 pp to 77.4%), Poland (+0.6 pp to 73.6%), and Croatia (+0.2 pp to 66.9%).

Employment rates of people aged 20-64 (2020,%)

Source datasets: lfsi_emp_a

Since the first quarter of 2020, the labor market has been affected by measures taken by the EU Member States to limit the spread of COVID-19. Some of these measures had either a direct or indirect effect on the number of working hours of employed people.

In the EU, in the fourth quarter of 2020, the index of total actual hours worked in the main job (computed using the year 2006 as the reference with an index of 100 points) dropped to 96.8 index points from 101.8 index points a year earlier. This corresponds to a fall of -5.0 index points. A more significant decline was observed in the second quarter of 2020 when the index slumped to the lowest level of 85.9 index points (a total decline of -15.9 index points) before rising again the next quarter.

Examining the gender difference over the same period, the decline in total actual hours worked in the main job was even more important for women than for men; total actual hours worked in the main job fell by -6.1 index points for women, whereas the number of hours fell by -4.3 index points for men. Moreover, the index of total working time for women registered a bigger fall than for men between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020 (-18.5 points versus -14.3 points) as well as between the third and the fourth quarter of 2020 (-1.7 points versus 0.2 points).


Working hours in the EU​​​​​​​

Source dataset: lfsi_ahw_q

Among the different occupation groups, the service and sales workers experienced the largest declines in the number of working hours in all four quarters of 2020 (when compared to the same quarter in 2019). Specifically, at the EU-level, the working hours of workers in this occupation group fell by -8.5% in the first quarter of 2020 (when compared with the same quarter of 2019), -28.7% in the second quarter, -7.7%, and -16.2% in the third and fourth quarters respectively.


Working hours_sales and services workers​​​​​​​


Source dataset: lfsq_ewhais

At the country level, all EU Member States experienced declines in the number of working hours for service and sales workers in the four quarter of 2020 when compared with the same quarter of the previous year. The only exceptions were Luxembourg and Romania, where there was a reported increase in the first quarter of 2020 (+7.8% and +2.1% respectively), as well as Demark and Estonia, which reported increases of +0.5% and +1.5% respectively in the third quarter.

While digitally-enabled "jobs of the future" are still below their pre-pandemic level, new data suggests they are on the way back.

The U.S. labor market is recovering faster than expected thanks to a so-far successful vaccination program and massive stimulus spending. Future-focused jobs suffered even more during the pandemic than employment as a whole, but the category is set to take off later this year.

The consulting firm Cognizant this morning released the first-quarter numbers for its Jobs of the Future Index, which tracks growth in new jobs in the digital and automated economy.

  • The 28.8% quarter-on-quarter increase of the index marked its greatest gain ever over the past two years.
  • All eight of the job families within the index experienced growth in the first quarter of 2021, with Fitness and Wellness (+137.8%) and the Transport (+38%) sectors emerging as the top performers.

 "We've rebuilt the essential job class, and now companies are beginning to think strategically about the jobs of the future," says Robert Brown, vice president at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work.

  • That doesn't automatically mean tech jobs.
  • The biggest single gainer by far was Caregiver/Personal Care Aide, a reminder that hands-on care will be a growing job category for an aging population in the future, now that vaccines have made in-home visits safe again.

Even with strong first-quarter growth, the index still posted a year-on-year decline of 22.2%.

  • And as Kevin Roose reported in the New York Times today, many workers in tech and other white-collar fields may take advantage of the disruption of the pandemic to rethink work altogether.

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