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 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.
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  • 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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  • 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.
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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 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 the Netherlands, 2001–2016

    Overall, employment and wages were accompanied by a rise in part-time work and a decline in job security

    The Netherlands is an example of a highly institutionalized labor market that places considerable attention on equity concerns. The government and social partners (unions and industry associations) seek to adjust labor market arrangements to meet the challenges of increased international competition, stronger claims on labor market positions by women, and the growing population share of immigrants and their children. The most notable developments since 2001 are the significant rise in part-time and flexible work arrangements as well as rising inequalities.
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  • 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.
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