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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Employment resilience, 2011


data source and more Map: ESPON ECR2, Cardiff University
Data sources: Experian, Eurostat

  • In the majority (2/3) of European regions, employment has not yet reached pre-crisis levels by 2011.┬á
  • Only about one out of ten regions was not affected by declining employment numbers.
  • The picture of employment resilience in Europe generally follows a pattern with a stronger core and weaker peripheral regions.
  • Rural areas seem to be more resilient to the crisisÔÇÖ impacts, due to growth in productivity compensating for employment losses.

Observations for policy

Only approximately one out of ten European regions (NUTS 2) had not experienced any decline in employment during the recent crisis. Almost one quarter suffered a drop in employment figures but could recover. In total one third of all regions has arrived (at least) at pre-crisis level. This implies that two third of the regions still had to recover in 2011. This group is divided evenly between those that passed through the downturn and now show first signs for a new upturn, and those that might even experience further decline in employment.

The general European picture can be divided in regions that either were resistant or could fully recover, and in regions that could not yet fully recover (even though some of which show first signs of upturn). Regions of the first group are predominantly located in Central Europe (Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria) and the Benelux countries. Regions of the second group can be found in all parts of Europe but especially in Southern and Southeast Europe. Also in Ireland and Denmark, for example, no region has shown signs of employment upturn by 2011. This leads to the conclusion that the crisis has significantly hit regions in all parts of Europe, whereas the most resistant regions seem to be concentrated in a few countries.

Policy context

As a direct consequence of the crisis various areas experienced jobless economic growth, where GDP figures did start to rise again after the crisis, but employment figures did not pick-up. The 6th Cohesion Report highlights that, in total, rural regions have been more resilient to the crisisÔÇÖ impacts, while metropolitan areas seem to be more prone to economic booms and busts. The higher resilience of rural regions results from their higher growth in productivity. Employment, however, declined in all types, although in Western, Northern and Southern Europe more in urban regions and in Eastern and Southeast Europe more in rural regions.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker emphasised in his opening statement in the European Parliament Plenary Session in July 2014, that the crisis is not over as long as there are 25 millions women and men out of work, and that policy coordination, economic governance and structural reforms are necessary means to boost EuropeÔÇÖs economy. The ÔÇśAgenda for new skills and jobsÔÇÖ which is a Flagship Initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy from 2010 already aimed at modernising the labour markets which also includes the empowerment of people through the acquisition of new skills.

Map interpretation

Regions without employment losses can mainly be found in Poland, (Western) Germany, Switzerland, the Benelux countries and Southern Norway. Regions that have recovered to their pre-crisis employment levels are located in Southern Sweden and Southern Norway, Western Germany, Austria, Belgium, and southeast France. Furthermore, single pockets of recovery exist in Poland, Hungary, Romania, and the UK, but also in some outermost regions (Guyana, R├ęunion).

The pattern of regional employment resilience tends to be influenced by national labour market policies. This can be the reason for clusters of resistant and recovering regions within single countries, and of unrecovered and without upturn regions in other countries. In Germany, Poland, Austria and the Nordic countries (except Denmark), a majority of resistant or recovered regions can be observed, hinting at prudent macroeconomic policies aimed at lessening the crisisÔÇÖ impact at national level. This determines even regions that have not yet recovered to be on the right path towards recovery. An opposite picture is seen in the Iberian Peninsula, in Greece and in Bulgaria, where almost all regions have not recovered and will not recover anytime soon.

A mix of recovered and non-recovered regions with no upturn can be seen in countries such as France and the UK. This points to the different resilience levels of individual regions and not so much to national policies. More urbanised regions such as Pays de la Loire, Rhone-Alpes the Midlands and the regions around London have recovered, while more rural areas such as Southeast UK and Western France did not recover and show no upturn.

Concepts and methods

The map displays whether employment figures were rising between the peak year of the crisis, which may differ between regions, and 2011. Four classes were used to distinguish different developments. Regions that did not experience any employment losses during the crisis are marked as ÔÇśresistantÔÇÖ regions (in blue). ÔÇśRecoveredÔÇÖ regions (in green) are those that experienced a decline in employment but have recovered to their pre-crisis employment levels. Regions that experienced employment decline and have not yet recovered, but show some potential for upturn are marked in yellow. Regions shown in red experienced employment decline and demonstrate neither recovery nor signs of upturn.

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