Publication Date



[Excerpt] Europe has begun to emerge from the prolonged slump that began with the global financial crisis in 2008 and was deepened by the euro zone single-currency crisis in 2010 –2011. In the last year, aggregate employment levels have risen faster than at any time since 2008. Aggregate EU unemployment rates have been declining since September 2013.

This, the fourth annual European Jobs Monitor report, looks in more detail at shifts in employment at Member State and aggregate EU level between the second quarter (Q2) of 2011 and 2014 Q2. A ‘jobs-based’ approach is applied in order to describe employment shifts quantitatively (how many jobs were created or destroyed) and qualitatively (what kinds of jobs these were). This approach has been used, in particular, to assess the extent to which employment structures in developed economies are polarising, due to the decline in mid-paid jobs, or upgrading as a result of growth in high-paid, high-skilled jobs.

The report examines the time profile of recent shifts in the employment structure, as it appears that the re-emergence of employment growth has coincided with a transition from the more polarised employment shifts of the peak recession years to a flatter, more equal distribution of employment across the wage distribution, with, if anything, a downward skew – in other words, greater growth in lower-paid employment. This raises the spectre of growing low-productivity employment, where output and, ultimately, living standards fail to rise despite an increase in job opportunities.

The report also synthesises the main findings from two other analyses of labour market developments that use a jobs-based approach. The first centres on developments in six European countries – Germany, Spain, the UK, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland – since the 1970s. The second is recent work by a network of labour market researchers from outside Europe, which focuses on Australia, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US.


Suggested Citation
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. (2015). Upgrading or polarisation? Long-term and global shifts in the employment structure. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.