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 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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  • The labor market in South Korea, 2000–2018 Updated

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

    Jungmin Lee, January 2020
    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 Germany, 2000–2018 Updated

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

    Hilmar SchneiderUlf Rinne, December 2019
    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 was remarkably robust to the impacts of the Great Recession, thus providing a useful case study for other developed countries.
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  • The Danish labor market, 2000–2018 Updated

    Employment has increased since the recession due to a cyclical upturn and structural reforms

    Torben M. Andersen, December 2019
    Denmark is often highlighted as a “flexicurity” country characterized by 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 increased long-term and structural unemployment. Most unemployment spells were short, muting the effects on long-term and youth unemployment. Recent reforms boosted labor supply and employment, targeting the young, elderly, and immigrants. Employment recovered to its structural level around 2015 and has since increased due to a favorable business cycle situation and structural reforms (particularly increases in retirement age).
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  • The labor market in Russia, 2000–2017

    Low unemployment and high employment, but also low, volatile pay and high inequality characterize the Russian labor market

    Vladimir Gimpelson, September 2019
    Being the largest economy in the Eurasian region, Russia's labor market affects economic performance and well-being in several former Soviet countries. Over the period 2000–2017, the Russian labor market survived several deep crises and underwent substantial structural changes. Major shocks were absorbed largely via wage adjustments, while aggregate employment and unemployment showed little sensitivity. Workers have paid the price for this rather stable employment situation in the form of volatile wages and a high risk of low pay.
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  • The labor market in Japan, 2000–2018 Updated

    Despite a plummeting working-age population, Japan has sustained its labor force size because of surging employment among women

    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 showed a remarkable stability during the 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 women, by augmenting labor demand in the healthcare services industry.
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