Employment and labour markets

1 December 2021

Employment and labour markets is one of the six main activities in Eurofound’s work programme for the 2021–2024 period.Read more

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.

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.

    There are still six out of ten people who are on open-ended, non-time-limited contracts. Although the figures we have on 'atypical employment', i.e. part-time and fixed-term work, haven't really changed over the last five to ten years, they are hiding a move towards more precarious forms of work and those with precarious contracts don't have the same access to employment or social protection.

    — Tina Weber, Research Manager, Employment Unit

    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.

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    Recent updates

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    Addressing stakeholder priorities

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    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.

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    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.

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    Key policy messages

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    Employment and labour markets infographic
    Infographic

    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.
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    Current and ongoing research

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    In 2021, Eurofound will continue to monitor and analyse how the EU’s labour market structure is changing, also in light of COVID-19, looking at net job creation and job loss by sector and occupation, as well as key characteristics of job structure.

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    In 2021, Eurofound will continue to monitor and analyse how the EU’s labour market structure is changing, also in light of COVID-19, looking at net job creation and job loss by sector and occupation, as well as key characteristics of job structure.

    In 2021, research will be available on labour market shifts related to gender and age, using data from the European Jobs Monitor and jointly carried out with the European Commission’s JRC. Reporting on structural changes in the labour market will draw on data from the European Jobs Monitor (EJM), the European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) and Eurostat. The impact of COVID-19 has been far-reaching and the research exploring the immediate employment impact of the pandemic and the effectiveness of emergency support measures by governments and social partners will be available in 2021. This will be followed by analysis of the European labour market situation one year after the onset of COVID-19 and will include the regions and sectors most affected by the crisis.

    Fresh updates to the ERM events and legal databases will also be available. In addition, information gathered via Eurofound’s COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch database set up in 2020 will be integrated into the ERM support instruments and legal database.

    Analysis of restructuring and a potential expansion of the ERM events database are also included in Eurofound’s activities dealing with the impact of change. This will cover some types of restructuring such as those linked to climate change or the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, digitalisation, offshoring or reshoring.

    Ongoing research from the ECS 2019 on workplace practices in relation to skills shortages and skills use in European establishments, carried out with Cedefop, will be available in 2021. Building on the outcomes of existing analysis on labour shortages, a new strand of research will assess the effectiveness of specific types of interventions, particularly those introduced during COVID-19 to tackle labour shortages further accentuated by the crisis, for example in the care sector.

    The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.

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    • Publications (1721)
    • Data
    • Ongoing work (3)

    Ongoing work

    Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles. 

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