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Employment and labour markets

Employment and labour markets is one of the six main activities in Eurofound’s work programme for the 2021–2024 period. Eurofound will continue to operate as a centre of expertise for monitoring and analysing labour market developments, particularly as European labour markets are faced with major challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its data collection and research will focus on the consequences of the pandemic for work and employment and how to maintain the functioning and inclusiveness of the labour market.

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Recent updates

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Employee monitoring: A moving target for regulation

The more employee monitoring resembles surveillance ­– with its systematic, continuous and detailed tracking of employees' activities, behaviours or communications – the greater the potential for infringement of both privacy...

Article
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The post-pandemic recovery of Europe continued in 2023, with strong job creation despite subdued economic growth, against a background of rising geopolitical tension. Eurofound’s research over the year brought to...

2 Bealtaine 2024
Publication
Annual report

Key policy messages

The main findings emerging from Eurofound research serve as input for policymakers to address some of the key issues in this area.

  • Prior to the unfolding of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, Europe’s labour market recovery was bringing the EU employment rate close to its EU2020 target of 75%. Although unique in its specific nature, lessons from previous crises have shown that retaining workers’ attachment to the labour market and, where possible, enhancing skills are important ways to ensure a rapid recovery.
  • Employment growth has been consistently weakest in mid-paid jobs – most noticeably during recessions – and consistently strongest in well-paid jobs.
  • Stability in levels of atypical work is masking a rise in precarious work for certain groups, with growing numbers of workers on ‘other’ or ‘no contracts’. The COVID-19 pandemic is further exposing the plight of these workers who have been hardest hit by the crisis and are at risk of being most severely affected over the longer term.
  • The growth of different types of non-standard work is leading to deeper divisions in EU labour markets between well-protected workers and those with limited access to social protection and employment rights, contributing to greater labour market segmentation. This is particularly the case for the growing numbers of those in ‘compound non-standard’ employment (having a mix of non-standard work statuses: for example, temporary and part-time, self-employed and part-time).
  • The current rise in precarious jobs will require policy solutions to support workers with limited access to social protection and representation. This is all the more relevant in the context of the emerging impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, which poses particular existential risks to many precarious and self-employed workers.

2021–2024 work plan

During 2021–2024, Eurofound’s research will provide important insights into the challenges and prospects in the area of employment and labour markets in the EU. Eurofound has an important role to play in monitoring trends in the labour market, as well as monitoring the impact of these trends for different groups of workers.

Research will focus overall on the changing structure of the labour market using Eurofound’s well established monitoring instruments, the European Jobs Monitor (EJM) and the European Restructuring Monitor (ERM), alongside Eurostat data. With high levels of unemployment expected in some countries, regions, sectors and occupations, affecting also the most precarious and vulnerable workers, these instruments will help identify growing and declining sectors, occupations and qualifications. The ERM will also continue to examine large-scale restructuring events, legislative and support instruments, as well as measures developed by social partners and public authorities to assist workers transitioning between jobs or sectors.

Eurofound will also focus on labour shortages and under-utilised human resources and talent in certain sectors and occupations – accentuated during COVID-19 – by exploring policy interventions and company practices. Specific topics will include skills mismatches, working time, geographical or occupational mobility, and the integration of migrants, as well as covering groups underrepresented in the labour market such as young people, women and people with disabilities. Eurofound will also look at sectors traditionally affected by labour shortages, the issue becoming more urgent due to the pandemic. This activity will feed into the preparatory work for the next edition of the European Company Survey (ECS).

Eurofound’s collaboration with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) will also continue in this area. Research on restructuring will contribute to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) and the European Social Fund+ (ESF+) activities. Links with sister agency Cedefop and the European Labour Authority will be explored as regards skills and labour mobility in the context of employment policies aimed at tackling labour shortages.

Addressing stakeholder priorities

Eurofound’s research aims to assist policy action to provide knowledge to support structural change, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to help address the challenges facing the EU and national levels in the areas of employment and labour market structures.

Specifically, Eurofound collects data and analyses trends in employment and labour market developments, identifying and examining gaps and groups at risk, in order to provide the European Commission and other EU institutions, Member State bodies and social partners with the support needed to devise more effective employment policies.

The Agency’s work plan is aligned with the European Commission’s political guidelines 2021–2024, directly feeding into a number of key policy areas aimed at creating a strong social Europe. In particular, Eurofound’s research will support policy initiatives under the European Pillar of Social Rights in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and activities linked to, among other initiatives, the European Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025, the reinforced Youth Guarantee, the Youth Employment Support package, the skills agenda, as well as innovation and job creation and the European Commission’s proposal for adequate minimum wages in the EU.

 

Eurofound research

In 2024, Eurofound continues to monitor and analyse how the EU’s labour market structure is changing, looking at patterns related to employment status, workers’ demographic characteristics, and net job creation and job loss by sector and occupation, particularly in light of the challenges triggered by COVID-19 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Analysis draws on data from the European Jobs Monitor (EJM), European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) and Eurostat and the work involves ongoing updates to the EJM and ERM databases. 

In 2024, Eurofound publishes the findings of research investigating employment shifts across EU regions, from the pandemic to the recovery. In particular, the research focuses on the gap between urban/capital and rural areas and on patterns of sectoral specialisation which made some regions more exposed or resilient than others. The research investigates the evolution of telework across European regions, including the observed differences in the take up of regional telework. This work builds on the EJM regional analyses and the previous Eurofound/Joint Research Centre analysis on teleworkable jobs.

Eurofound finalises its analysis of the impact of short-time work schemes on retaining employment and securing incomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. One output from this project is a comparative database of the support measures used in the Member States. The research aims to derive policy lessons regarding effective instruments for future crises. 

Complementing earlier research on mapping the incidence of labour shortages and assessing policies to address shortages, Eurofound concludes its analysis of company/organisational practices. Some case studies look specifically at how displaced people from Ukraine have been integrated into the labour market. 

New research in 2024 investigates shifts in the employment structure in the first quarter of the 21st century, examining the pace of change (technological, globalisation/trade-related, demographic) and its impacts on labour markets.

Research begins on measuring job differences in task requirements and their implications for mobility and employment reallocation across the economy. It aims to determine the magnitude and the nature of changes in job tasks following a job move.

Work also commences on exploring wage determinants in the EU, with a specific focus on gender gaps. This research aims to identify correlations between trends in educational attainment and wages by gender, as well as the determinants of any mismatch between wages and education levels by gender.

Key outputs

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Eurofound's 2024 work programme is set in the context of the upcoming European elections, war in Ukraine, renewed Middle East conflict and rising cost of living across the EU.

23 Eanáir 2024
Publication
Work programme

Eurofound expert(s)

John Hurley

John Hurley is a senior research manager in the Employment unit at Eurofound. He took up the role of research manager in February 2012. He is responsible for the European...

Senior research manager,
Employment research unit
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Carlos Vacas Soriano is a research manager in the Employment unit at Eurofound. He works on topics related to wage and income inequalities, minimum wages, low pay, job quality...

Research manager,
Employment research unit
Publications results (595)

The post-pandemic recovery of Europe continued in 2023, with strong job creation despite subdued economic growth, against a background of rising geopolitical tension. Eurofound’s research over the year brought to light evidence on the key issues shaping the daily lives and work of Europeans.

02 May 2024

Employment levels in the EU27 recovered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–2021 much faster than they did after the global financial crisis in 2008–2010. This was despite the immediate job loss effects of the two crises being of comparable scale. Demographic change is affecting labour

28 March 2024

In this report, we provide projections of how the Fit for 55 policy package may affect the sectoral and occupational structure of employment in the EU by 2030, and the impacts across different regions and countries.

25 October 2023

The year 2022 opened with cautious optimism. Europe was emerging from two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with NextGenerationEU setting out a plan for a recovery that builds a strong and sustainable future. The Russian attack on Ukraine early in the year changed the situation dramatically, however

04 May 2023

On request by the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Eurofound prepared a background paper as a basis for the discussion at the informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) meeting on 3-4 May 2023. The paper outlines some of the key challenges

04 May 2023

Human resources contribute to the success of an organisation though their skills. According to the ability, motivation, opportunity (AMO) model, employee contributions to organisational performance depend on their skills, their motivation to draw on their skills, and the opportunities to do so

30 March 2023

As economies begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, labour shortages are becoming increasingly evident despite the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy and commodity prices. These include shortages exacerbated by the crisis in some sectors and professions where they had been endemic for some

28 March 2023

European labour markets have recovered strongly from COVID-19. By the end of 2021, little more than 18 months after the start of the pandemic, employment rates in the EU were almost at pre-crisis levels. This report summarises labour market developments in 2020 and 2021 using quarterly data from the

20 October 2022

Digitisation and automation technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), can affect working conditions in a variety of ways and their use in the workplace raises a host of new ethical concerns. Recently, the policy debate surrounding these concerns has become more prominent and has

30 May 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to be a defining force in the lives and work of Europeans for a second year in 2021, and Eurofound continued its work of examining and recording the many and diverse impacts across the EU Member States. Living and working in Europe 2021 provides a snapshot of the

09 May 2022

Online resources results (960)

Employee monitoring: A moving target for regulation

The more employee monitoring resembles surveillance ­– with its systematic, continuous and detailed tracking of employees' activities, behaviours or communications – the greater the potential for infringement of both privacy and data protection rights.

Presentation made at the 'Informal meeting of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers (EPSCO)' by Ivailo Kalfin, Executive Director, Eurofound and Prof. dr. Paul Schoukens, Full Professor, KU Leuven. Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Namur, 11-12 January 2024.

11 Eanáir 2024

Climate change objectives and decarbonisation measures are vital for the future of Europe. But how will these objectives impact employment and the labour market? In this episode of the Eurofound Talks podcast series, Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Senior Research Manager John Hurley about new

22 Samhain 2023
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Big tech dismissals: What is the impact in the EU?

Between the end of 2022 and the first half of 2023, almost 300,000 employees working for ‘big tech’ companies were laid off across the world, making headlines for months in global media. This development has been a shock, considering the high numbers of jobs in well-known tech corporations with a re

In this episode of Eurofound Talks, recorded for International Women's Day 2023, Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Working Life researchers Jorge Cabrita and Viginta Ivaškaitė-Tamošiūnė about how, when paid and unpaid work are combined, women do eight full-time weeks more work than men per year

8 Márta 2023
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Building resilience after COVID-19: EU measures to protect jobs and promote skills

Since 2011, the Restructuring support instruments database of the EU PolicyWatch has been collecting information on measures that assist companies and workers to anticipate and manage restructuring. This article looks at measures in the database aimed at supporting employees and employers during the

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EU labour markets resilient despite energy-cost related restructuring

Eurofound’s European Restructuring Monitor database reveals the impact of the energy crisis on employment in the EU. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, energy prices have hit record highs. The European Commission imposed sanctions and limitations on the import of oil and gas fr

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First impacts of the Ukrainian crisis on employment in the EU

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shocked the world and the international community. Cities being destroyed, civilians wounded, innocent lives lost, refugees fleeing to other countries, and economic sanctions have become everyday news as this unprovoked and unlawful war unfolds.

Image of woman paying for goods by credit card through a smartphone in a coffee shop

Bank restructuring: disruptors versus incumbents

While high-street banks reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic by accelerating the push to digitalisation and cutting jobs, some digital-only banks are recruiting new staff to meet growing demand. An example is the ‘disruptor’ bank Revolut which has recently announced the creation of 1,000 jobs worldwide


Blogs results (56)

Inequalities have become more apparent in many areas: between men and women; between rich and poor; between young and old; and between rural and urban areas. What are the implications of these inequalities across the EU?

2 Bealtaine 2024

‘Building back better’ is not just an empty slogan – we need the construction sector to help us achieve our climate targets. Eurofound research reveals that construction is where the Fit for 55 climate policy package will generate the most net new employment.

4 Nollaig 2023
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The European Commission declared 2023 as the European Year of Skills, stating ‘Helping people get the right skills for quality jobs and helping companies, in particular small and medium enterprises, address skills shortages in the EU is what this year is all about.’

27 Márta 2023
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'Women belong in all the places where decisions are made', to borrow from the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These decisions are made everywhere and at every level: in the home and at the workplace; in the boardroom and on the shop floor. Which is why it is of such serious concern to see the ongoing deep

8 Márta 2023
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The platform economy is one of those moving targets, which, despite receiving increasing media and policy attention, has proven difficult to regulate. Given the heterogeneity of employment relationships, business models, types of platform work and cross-border issues, this is not surprising. Yet, in

27 Meán Fómhair 2022
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Following the declines in employment rates and working hours across Europe in 2020, economies began to show signs of recovery during the first quarter of 2021. The gradual rekindling of economic activity has led to a surge in demand for workers and reawakened concerns over labour shortages. Difficul

20 Iúil 2021
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On 9 May, the Conference on the Future of Europe will get underway. Floated well before the COVID-19 outbreak, its timing in the wake of the seismic shifts precipitated by the pandemic, and its implementation alongside the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, means that the outcomes could b

4 Bealtaine 2021
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The pandemic has had differential impacts on women. Raised consciousness about them must be applied to advance gender equality in recovery measures. All crises have a strongly gendered impact and none more so than the current pandemic, across a range of indicators. While the virus itself seems to ta

28 Aibreán 2021
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​​​​​​​To date, close to six million workers in the EU have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Many businesses have closed their doors forever or been pushed to the brink, bringing severe financial and psychological hardship to the individuals and families affected. However, the toll of the pandemic c

9 Feabhra 2021

Upcoming publications results (3)

This report provides updated data on the scale of labour shortages and labour market slack in the EU and at Member State level and focusses on organisational policies aimed at attracting workers in shortage occupations. It provides lessons on steps employers can take to fill vacancies, whether actin

September 2024
Forthcoming
Publication
Research report

Job retention schemes were the main policy instruments used across the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic to preserve employment and support businesses. The report provides an analysis of job retention schemes in the EU, focusing on their institutional characteristics, their impact on employment levels

September 2024
Forthcoming
Publication
Research report

This report investigates regional employment dynamics in Europe before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the subsequent recovery from the crisis. Almost 90% of regions across the EU had exceeded their pre-pandemic employment levels by 2022. However, significant regional disparities in emp

August 2024
Data results (3)

The European Jobs Monitor (EJM) tracks structural change in European labour markets. It analyses shifts in the employment structure in the EU in terms of occupation and sector and gives a qualitative assessment of these shifts using various proxies of job quality – wages, skill levels, etc.

2 Bealtaine 2023

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