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[Excerpt] Europe and Central Asia only partly followed the world wide trends of improvements in labour markets. Despite the economic growth achieved in most economies over recent years, the region as a whole did not see any considerable improvements in terms of decreasing the total number of unemployed. In 2004 total unemployment in the region was 35 million, almost identical to the number in 2003. During 2004, employment grew by 2 million, which represents only 4 per cent of the employment increase in the world during this period. The employment-to-population ratio continued to decline, in keeping with the trend over the last ten year. Despite the stagnant trends in employment and unemployment in the region there is one labour market indicator which showed considerable improvements over the last five years: labour productivity. This is especially true for Central and Eastern Europe and CIS, which after the region of East Asia, saw the highest growth in productivity (measured as output per person employed) of all world regions.

The supplement prepared for the 7th European Regional Meeting describes the latest labour market trends in Europe and Central Asia and points out the challenges ahead.