Country labor markets

Articles in this subject area summarize the current state of specific labor markets. They cover the labor market issues common to all countries but also highlight important developments specific to each country context.

  • The Danish labor market, 2000–2020 Updated

    Flexicurity has proven resilient to large shocks, but low skills and employment rates are challenges, especially among youths

    Torben M. Andersen, November 2021
    Denmark is often termed a “flexicurity” country with lax employment protection legislation, generous unemployment insurance, and active labor market policies. This model is not a safeguard against business cycles, but has coped with the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, avoiding large increases in long-term and structural unemployment. The pandemic has had severe effects due to restrictions and lockdowns, but the recovery and re-openings in late 2020 and spring 2021 have been strong, indicating that the labor market effects are mainly temporary. Recent reforms have boosted labor supply and employment. Real wage growth has been positive and responded—with some lag—to the developments in unemployment.
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  • The labor market in the US, 2000–2020 Updated

    Covid-19 ended the longest US economic expansion, pushing unemployment to its highest level with a slow and incomplete recovery

    Daniel S. Hamermesh, October 2021
    As the largest economy in the world, the US labor market is crucial to the economic well-being of citizens worldwide as well as, of course, that of its own citizens. Since 2000 the US labor market has undergone substantial changes, reflecting the Great Recession and the Covid Recession, but also resulting from some striking trends. Most interesting have been a remarkable drop in the labor force participation rate, reversing a nearly 50-year trend; the full recovery of unemployment after 2010 and its skyrocketing in 2020; and the little-known continuing growth in post-inflation average earnings.
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  • The labor market in Norway, 2000–2018 Updated

    Negative consequences of falling oil prices were offset by real wage flexibility, reduced immigration, and labor reallocation

    Øivind A. Nilsen, June 2020
    Norway has a rather high labor force participation rate and a very low unemployment rate. Part of the reason for this fortunate situation is the so-called “tripartism”: a broad agreement among unions, employers, and government to maintain a high level of coordination in wage bargaining. This has led to downward real wage flexibility, which has lessened the effects of negative shocks to the economy. Reduced net immigration, especially from neighboring countries, also mitigated the negative effects of the oil price drop in 2014. A potential drawback of tripartism is the difficulty of reducing employee absences and disability.
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  • The labor market in Switzerland, 2000–2018 Updated

    The Swiss labor market has proven resilient to several recent shocks, with unemployment remaining stable and real wages steadily increasing

    Switzerland is a small country with rich cultural and geographic diversity. The Swiss unemployment rate is low, at around 4%. The rate has remained at that level since the year 2000, despite a massive increase in the foreign labor force, the Great Recession, and a currency appreciation shock, demonstrating the Swiss labor market's impressive resiliency. However, challenges do exist, particularly related to earnings and employment gaps between foreign and native workers, as well as a narrowing but persistent gender pay gap. Additionally, regional differences in unemployment are significant.
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  • The labor market in South Africa, 2000–2017

    The legacy of apartheid and demand for skills have resulted in high, persistent inequality and high unemployment

    The South African economy was on a positive growth trajectory from 2003 to 2008 but, like other economies around the world, it was not spared from the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis. The economy has not recovered and employment in South Africa has not yet returned to its pre-crisis levels. Overall inequality has not declined, and median wages seem to have stagnated in the post-apartheid period. Labor force participation has been stable and although progress has been made, gender imbalances persist.
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  • The labor market in Iceland, 2000–2018

    A flexible labor market that was put to the test in the Great Recession

    Katrín Ólafsdóttir, April 2020
    The Icelandic labor market is characterized by high union density and the Icelanders’ willingness to work, as labor force participation is high, the work week long, and people retire late. The resilience and flexibility of the Icelandic labor market was put to the test in the Great Recession as a large share of employees in the labor market experienced a fall in work hours and a fall in nominal wages, while unemployment rose less than expected. In recent years there has been a strong influx of foreign workers, mostly from Eastern Europe. Studies have shown that their labor force participation is no lower than that of Icelanders.
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  • The labor market in Finland, 2000–2018 Updated

    The economy has finally started to recover from an almost decade-long economic stagnation

    Finland's population is aging rapidly by international comparison. The shrinking working-age population means that the burden of increasing pension and health care expenditures is placed on a smaller group of employed workers, while the scope for economic growth through increased labor input diminishes. Fiscal sustainability of the welfare state calls for a high employment rate among people of working age. Recent increases in employment contribute favorably to public finances, but high overall unemployment and a large share of the long-term unemployed are serious concerns.
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  • The labor market in Spain, 2002–2018 Updated

    Youth and long-term unemployment, which skyrocketed during the Great Recession, were still very high in 2018

    Spain, the fourth largest eurozone economy, was hit particularly hard by the Great Recession, which made its chronic labor market problems more evident. Youth and long-term unemployment escalated during the crisis and, despite the ongoing recovery, in 2018 were still at very high levels. The aggregate rate of temporary employment declined during the recession, but grew among youth. Most interesting have been the narrowing of the gender gap in labor force participation, the decline in the share of immigrants in employment and the labor force, and the overall increase in wage inequality.
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  • The labor market in the UK, 2000–2019 Updated

    Unemployment rose only modestly during the Great Recession and fell strongly since, with productivity and wages lagging behind

    Experiences during the Great Recession support the view that the UK labor market is relatively flexible. Unemployment rose less and recovered faster than in most other European economies. However, this success has been accompanied by a stagnation of productivity and wages; an open question is whether this represents a cyclical phenomenon or a structural problem. In addition, the effects of the planned exit of the UK from the EU (Brexit), which is quite possibly the greatest current threat to the stability of the UK labor market, are not yet visible in labor market statistics.
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  • The labor market in Ireland, 2000–2018 Updated

    A remarkable turnaround in the labor market went hand in hand with economic recovery

    Ireland was hit particularly hard by the global financial crisis, with severe impacts on the labor market. Between 2007 and 2013, the unemployment rate increased dramatically, from 5% to 15.5%, and the labor force participation rate declined by almost five percentage points between 2007 and 2012. Outward migration re-emerged as a safety valve for the Irish economy, helping to moderate impacts on unemployment via a reduction in overall labor supply. As the crisis deepened, long-term unemployment escalated. However, since 2013, there is clear evidence of a recovery in the labor market with unemployment, both overall and long-term, dropping rapidly.
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