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 Germany, 2000–2016

    The transformation of a notoriously rigid labor market into a role model of its own style is essentially complete

    The EU’s largest economy, Germany, has managed to find an effective and unique combination of flexibility and rigidity in its labor market. Institutions that typically characterize rigid labor markets are effectively balanced by flexibility instruments. Important developments since 2000 include steadily decreasing unemployment rates (since 2005), increasing participation rates, and (since 2011) moderately increasing labor compensation. The German labor market has also been remarkably robust to the impacts of the Great Recession, thus providing a useful case study for other developed countries.
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  • The labor market in Japan, 2000–2016

    Despite a plummeting working-age population, Japan has sustained its labor force size, thanks mostly to surging employment among women

    Daiji KawaguchiHiroaki Mori, September 2017
    As the third largest economy in the world and a precursor of global trends in population aging, Japan’s recent experiences provide important lessons regarding how demographic shifts affect the labor market and individuals’ economic well-being. On the whole, the labor market has shown a remarkable stability during the recent financial crisis, despite decades of economic stagnation and sluggish real wage growth. Rapid population aging, however, has brought substantial changes to individuals in the labor market, most notably among women, by augmenting labor demand in the healthcare services industry.
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  • The labor market in Switzerland, 2000–2016

    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 only about half the OECD average. 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 among 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 Spain, 2002–2016

    Youth and long-term unemployment, which skyrocketed during the Great Recession, were still very high in 2016

    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 2016 were still at unsustainably 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 Danish labor market, 2000–2016

    Despite recession-induced job losses, high turnover prevented a steep increase in long-term and youth unemployment

    Torben M. Andersen, November 2017
    Denmark is often highlighted as a “flexicurity” country characterized by rather lax employment protection legislation, generous unemployment insurance, and active labor market policies. Despite a sharp and prolonged decline in employment in the wake of the Great Recession, high job turnover and wage adjustments worked to prevent long-term and thus structural unemployment from increasing. While many have been affected by unemployment, most unemployment spells have been short, which has muted the effects on long-term and youth unemployment. Recent years have seen a sequence of reforms to boost labor supply and employment, including measures targeting the young, the elderly, and immigrants.
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  • The labor market in South Korea, 2000–2016

    The labor market stabilized quickly after the 1998 Asian crisis, but rising inequality and demographic change are challenges

    Jungmin Lee, December 2017
    South Korea has boasted one of the world's most successful economies since the end of World War II. The South Korean labor market has recovered quickly from the depths of the Asian crisis in 1998, and has since remained surprisingly sound and stable. The unemployment rate has remained relatively low, and average real earnings have steadily increased. The South Korean labor market was resilient in the wake of the global financial crisis. However, there are issues that require attention, including high earnings inequality, an aging labor force, increasing part-time jobs, and rising youth unemployment rates.
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  • The labor market in Italy, 2000–2016

    Italy has seen moderate recovery since the double-dip recession, but problems persist among the youth and in southern regions

    The Italian labor market suffered a sizable negative shock from the double-dip recession and has since experienced a moderate recovery beginning in 2014. Despite some improvement, unemployment remains higher than pre-crisis levels, especially for young workers. Female participation has been slowly increasing. Regional heterogeneity is still high, with the stagnating south unable to catch up with the north. Real earnings have been increasing, but productivity is stable at relatively low levels compared to other European countries. Finally, undeclared employment is high, especially in the south.
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  • The labor market in Austria, 2000–2016

    Fifteen years ago Austria was the “better Germany,” but it has failed to keep up over time

    René Böheim, December 2017
    Austria is an interesting economy due to its strong industrial relations with institutionalized collective bargaining over wage negotiations and working conditions. Currently, Austria’s GDP per capita is high, but unemployment, although comparably low on an international scale, is not declining in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The labor market is also characterized by an increasing share of mostly low-skilled foreign workers. High marginal labor taxes discourage low-skilled workers from leaving social assistance.
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  • The labor market in Ireland, 2000–2016

    Unemployment remains above pre-crisis levels, but recovery from its very high crisis level is well underway

    Adele BerginElish Kelly, January 2018
    Ireland was hit particularly hard by the global financial crisis, with severe impacts on the labor market. The unemployment rate increased dramatically, and the labor force participation rate declined by four 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, creating significant policy challenges. Overall unemployment has been dropping rapidly since 2013, but remains above its pre-crisis level.
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