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 changing of the French labor market, 2000–2017

    The French workforce is now much better educated, but unemployment, underemployment, and low-income work present challenges

    Philippe Askenazy, January 2018
    France has the second largest population in the EU. Since 2000, the French labor market has undergone substantial changes resulting from striking trends, some of which were catalyzed by the Great Recession. The most interesting of these have been the massive improvement in the education of the labor force (especially of women), the resilience of employment during the Great Recession (albeit with a very late recovery), and the dramatic emergence of very short-term employment contracts and low-income independent contractors, which together fueled earnings inequality.
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  • 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 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 Australia, 2000–2016

    Sustained economic growth led to reduced unemployment and real earnings growth, but prosperity has not been equally shared

    Garry Barrett, July 2018
    Since 1991, the Australian economy has experienced sustained economic growth. Aided by the commodities boom and strong public finances, the Australian economy negotiated the global financial crisis without falling into recession. Over this period there were important structural changes, with increasing labor force participation among the elderly and the continuing convergence of employment and unemployment patterns for men and women. However, some recent negative trends include a rise in unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, a deteriorating youth labor market, and a stagnant gender earnings gap.
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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 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 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.
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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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  • The labor market in Finland, 2000–2016

    An almost decade-long economic stagnation left an unemployment problem for an aging society

    Tomi KyyräHanna Pesola, January 2018
    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 among older groups 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 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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