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[Excerpt] Europe continues its recovery from the economic slump caused by the global financial crisis in 2008, exacerbated by the euro zone single currency crisis in 2010–2011. In 2014–2015, aggregate employment levels rose faster than at any time since 2008 and over four million new jobs were created in the 28 EU Member States.

The fifth annual European Jobs Monitor report looks at employment shifts at Member State and aggregate EU level from the second quarter of 2011 to the second quarter of 2015. Part 1 presents the jobs-based approach, used to describe employment shifts quantitatively (how many jobs were created or destroyed) and qualitatively (what kinds of jobs). This approach relies on breaking employment down into detailed ‘job’ cells, with a job defined as ‘a specific occupation in a specific sector’, for example, a health professional in the health sector, or a skilled craft/tradesman in car manufacturing.

A particular focus is placed on the time profile of recent shifts in employment structure. Ranking the jobs according to their wage and educational levels – or a broader multidimensional index of job quality – adds a qualitative dimension to the analysis. In this year’s report, a further level of detail is provided by measuring the intensity involved in carrying out different categories of task: physical, intellectual and social in terms of the job’s content, methods and work organisation, as well as the tools used (such as information and communication technologies (ICT) and machinery).

Parts 2 and 3 of the report introduce a new set of indicators on the task content, methods and tools used at work. Derived from international databases on work and occupations, these indicators enable the analysis to go beyond characterising jobs by quality alone – to give a detailed account of what Europeans do at work and how they do it. The indicators provide valuable new insights on the structural differences and recent evolution of European labour markets, as well as a better understanding of labour input in the production process and the changing nature of the skills required.

The jobs-based approach has been used since the 1990s to assess the extent to which employment structures in developed economies are polarising, leading to a shrinking middle quintile, or upgrading as the demand for, and supply of, highly qualified workers increases. These are the two main patterns identified in recent analysis of developed economy labour markets, although more recent analysis in the US – corroborated by some evidence in this report – suggests that a downgrading of the employment structure (relatively faster growth at the lower end of the wage distribution) is also emerging as an alternative pattern.


Suggested Citation
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. (2016). What do Europeans do at work? A task-based analysis: European Jobs Monitor 2016. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.