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 labor market in Sweden since the 1990s

    The Swedish economy continues to have high employment and rapidly rising real wages

    Nils Gottfries, July 2018
    The economic crisis in the early 1990s brought about a dramatic increase in unemployment and a similar decrease in labor force participation. Unemployment declined afterwards, but stabilized at around 6–7%—more than twice as high as before the crisis. Today, the unemployment rate is lower than the EU average, though Sweden no longer stands out in this respect. The 2008 financial crisis had small effects on the Swedish labor market. Employment in industry declined sharply and then remained stagnant, but employment in the service sectors has continued to grow steadily.
  • The labor market in Brazil, 2001–2015

    An ongoing crisis threatens Brazil’s recent increased earnings and its decreased inequality and gender and ethnic gaps

    From 2001 to 2015, Brazil experienced a profound reduction in income inequality. The commodities boom and some institutional changes in the early 2000s kick-started the Brazilian labor market, increasing the quantity of formal jobs and earnings, especially for the poorest workers. Significant increases in average schooling and the real minimum wage helped reduce ethnic, gender, and regional earnings gaps, though all remain rather high. However, since 2014 a major fiscal crisis has negatively affected GDP and the labor market, seriously threatening these achievements.
  • The Chinese labor market, 2000–2016

    The world’s second largest economy has boomed, but a rapidly aging labor force presents substantial challenges

    Junsen ZhangJia Wu, May 2018
    China experienced significant economic progress over the past few decades with an annual average GDP growth of approximately 10%. Population expansion has certainly been a contributing factor, but that is now changing as China rapidly ages. Rural migrants are set to play a key role in compensating for future labor shortages, but inequality is a major issue. Evidence shows that rural migrants have low-paying and undesirable jobs in urban labor markets, which points to inefficient labor allocation and discrimination that may continue to impede rural–urban migration.
  • The labor market in Norway, 2000–2016

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

    Øivind A. Nilsen, May 2018
    Norway has a high labor force participation rate and a very low unemployment rate. Part of the reason for this fortunate situation is 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, has also mitigated the negative effects of the recent drop in oil prices. A potential drawback of this tripartism is, however, the difficulty of reducing employee absences and disability.
  • The labor market in Canada, 2000–2016

    A strong resource boom that benefited Canada’s economy and labor market was followed by a painful adjustment

    W. Craig Riddell, April 2018
    During the 2000–2016 period, Canada’s economy and labor market performed well. An important element in this success was the strong resource boom that lasted from the late 1990s to 2014. Since that time the economy and labor market have been undergoing a painful adjustment, a process that is now essentially complete. A good rule of thumb when examining many aspects of the labor market, such as the extent of unionization and the level of the minimum wage relative to the median wage, is that Canada is situated roughly halfway between the US and Europe.
  • The labor market in New Zealand, 2000–2017

    Employment has grown steadily and the gender gap and skill premiums have fallen

    David C. Maré, April 2018
    New Zealand is a small open economy, with large international labor flows and skilled immigrants. Since 2000, employment growth has kept pace with strong migration-related population growth. While overall employment rates have remained relatively stable, they have increased substantially for older workers. In contrast, younger workers as well as the Maori and Pasifika ethnic groups experienced a sharp decline in employment rates and a rise in unemployment around the time of the global financial crisis. Wage gains have been modest and there has been a compression of earnings differentials by gender as well as by skill.
  • The labor market in India since the 1990s

    Productivity growth and low unemployment have not been matched by comparable rises in wages

    The Indian economy entered an ongoing process of trade liberalization, domestic deregulation, and privatization of public sector units in 1991. Since then, per capita output has increased significantly, while the overall unemployment rate has remained low. However, labor force participation rates have fallen sharply, especially for women. In addition, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, an overwhelming proportion of the labor force continues to work in the informal sector, and there is little evidence of a sustained rise in wages for either unskilled rural or factory workers.
  • The labor market in Belgium, 2000–2016

    Beyond satisfactory average performances lies a strongly segmented labor market with long-term challenges

    Might the Belgian labor market be included in the gallery of “Belgian surrealism”? At first sight, Belgium with its 11 million inhabitants has withstood the Great Recession and the euro area debt crisis relatively well, quickly getting back on track toward growth and employment, apparently without rising earnings inequality. But if one digs a little deeper, Belgium appears to be a strongly segmented labor market, first and foremost in an astounding north–south regional (linguistic) dimension. This extreme heterogeneity, along with several demographic challenges, should serve as a warning for the future.
  • The labor market in Poland, 2000−2016

    Employment has been rising, but low participation of older people and a large share of temporary jobs pose challenges

    In the early 2000s, Poland’s unemployment rate reached 20%. That is now a distant memory, as employment has increased noticeably and the unemployment rate has dropped to 5%. However, most of the net job creation has consisted of temporary jobs. Labor market segmentation has become an issue and an important factor behind wage inequality. Labor force participation of older workers increased after reforms aimed at prolonging careers, but the recent reversal of the statutory retirement age leaves Poland vulnerable to the effects of population aging.
  • The labor market in the UK, 2000–2016

    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 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, is not yet visible in labor market statistics.
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