Unemployment rate of 20-64 years old, 2012


Observations for policy

Unemployment rates in Europe vary between less than 5% and more than 25%, and mainly follow a North-South divide. Many regions in Western and Northern Europe show comparably low unemployment rates. Also several Eastern and Southeast European regions e.g. in Hungary, Slovenia and Romania show rather low unemployment rates of less than 10%.

Also within countries, there are considerable regional disparities in terms of unemployment rates. Especially Greece, Italy and Spain (at least ten percentage points) but also Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic or Germany (at least five percentage points) show high inter-regional disparities.

In addition to the overall unemployment rate, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment are of particular concern. Youth unemployment receives a lot of policy attention as for most young people it will not be easier to find a job after several years of unemployment in an early phase of their working life. Long-term unemployment hints at structural problems of the labour market: For an increasing share of unemployed workers no new positions can be found. The longer they remain unemployed and out of work and training, the more difficult it will get for them to find new jobs. Such specific problems require the development of specific target-oriented approaches that consider regional and structural characteristics. One-size-fits-all solutions will not apply here.

Policy context

For the current funding period 2014-2020, the promotion of sustainable and quality employment and support of labour mobility was defined as a thematic objective of the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF). Related investment priorities refer to business incubators for self-employment, microenterprises and business creation, strategies for specific areas like the conversion of declining industrial regions, and investments in infrastructures for employment services. The Flagship initiative “Youth on the move” of the Europe 2020 Strategy aims, among others, at reducing youth unemployment rates by means of a specific employment framework addressing the youth and considering their specific needs and circumstances.

The 6th Cohesion Report highlights the impact of the crisis on rising unemployment rates. The average unemployment rate of the EU28 fell from 9.3% in 2004 to 7.1% in 2008 but rose to 10.9% in 2013. Regional labour market disparities thus increased and the trend towards diminishing such disparities was reversed. Only in German NUTS2 regions unemployment rates declined between 2008 and 2013, whereas in 227 out of 272 NUTS2 regions unemployment rates increased. However, the increase in unemployment between 2008 and 2013 in more developed and transition regions was larger than the decline between 2000 and 2008 so that these regions had higher unemployment rates in 2013 than in 2000. On the other hand, unemployment rates of less developed regions in 2013 were lower than in 2000 due to significant reductions between 2000 and 2008 so that, despite the crisis, there is still an overall decline in unemployment between 2000 and 2013 for these regions. One has to consider though, that in 2013 the unemployment rate of less developed regions was above the unemployment rate of more developed regions, but below the unemployment rate of transition regions. This leads to the conclusion that a comparatively good economic performance does not necessarily result in low unemployment rates.

Map interpretation

Unemployment rates of less than 10% can mainly be found in Western Europe and the Nordic countries but also in Malta, the Czech Republic, most regions in Romania, parts of Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. Several regions stand out with unemployment rates of less than 5%. Many of these regions are located in a European core, mainly in of Western and Southern Germany, several regions of the Benelux countries and Switzerland, and Austria. Furthermore, northern and western Romania, some regions in the UK and the Czech Republic, and all regions in Norway show such low unemployment rates.

Spanish, Greek and some outermost regions like the Canary islands, Réunion or Guyane show high unemployment rates of more than 20%. High youth unemployment rates worsen the situation especially in Southern Spain. Several regions in Greece, Southern Italy and some outermost regions are even affected by both high long-term and high youth unemployment rates. In contrast to high youth unemployment rates, high long-term unemployment rates occur in all parts of Europe but predominantly in Southern and Eastern Europe. However, some regions with low overall unemployment rates like Eastern Germany and Flanders are also affected by high long-term unemployment rates.

Concepts and methods

The map uses two main layers for illustrating general unemployment rates and to emphasise regional hotspots with high youth and long-term unemployment rates, based on the EUROSTAT definition,

Within the context of this map, the age group taken into consideration is 20-64 years-old. The unemployment rate is then defined as the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the labour force. In this case the number of unemployed people aged 20-64 years as a share of the labour force aged 20-64 years is displayed for all EU28+4 NUTS2 regions as percentages. Six classes are used, starting from less than 5%, increasing gradually by five percentage points, up to more than 25%.

The second layer emphasises regions that have youth unemployment rates of more than 40% and long-term unemployment rates of more than 50%, respectively.

According to Eurostat, youth unemployment includes all people aged 15-24 years who are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate is then calculated as a share of unemployed young people compared to the total labour force in that age group. One has to consider that young people that are studying are not available for work. Consequently, they are excluded from the total labour force in the age group 15-24 years.

People being unemployed for 12 months or more are considered being long-term unemployed. Eurostat defines the duration of unemployment as the duration of a search for a job or as the period of time since the last job was held (if this period is shorter than the duration of the search for a job). The long-term unemployment rate is not calculated as a share of the total labour force but in relation to the unemployed people.