OECD Factbook 2011-2012: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics
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branch Labour
branch Employment and hours worked
    branch Employment rates

Employment rates are a measure of the extent of utilisation of available labour resources. In the short term, these rates are sensitive to the economic cycle, but in the longer term they are significantly affected by government policies with regard to higher education and income support and by policies that facilitate employment of women.


Employment rates are calculated as the ratio of the employed to the working age population. Employment is generally measured through household labour force surveys. According to the ILO Guidelines, employed persons are defined as those aged 15 or over who report that they have worked in gainful employment for at least one hour in the previous week or who had a job but were absent from work during the reference week. Those not in employment consist of persons who are classified as either unemployed or inactive, in the sense that they are not included in the labour force for reasons of study, incapacity or the need to look after young children or elderly relatives.

The working age population refers to persons aged 15 to 64. Employment rates are here shown for both total employment and for men and women separately.


All OECD countries use the ILO Guidelines for measuring employment. Operational definitions used in national labour force surveys may vary slightly from country to country. Employment levels are also likely to be affected by changes in the survey design and the survey conduct. Despite these changes, the employment rates shown here are fairly consistent over time.


Total employment rates over the three years to 2010 are, in most OECD countries, slightly above the levels achieved in the period 1998 to 2000. In Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands, the increase in employment rates exceed 5 percentage points, while gains are more moderate for most other OECD countries. However, the United States, Turkey and Iceland recorded modest falls in employment rates over this period. By the end of the period, employment rates ranged between 46% in Turkey and 79% in Iceland. Among the emerging economies shown, employment rates in Brazil and the Russian Federation are slightly above the OECD average, rising by 4 percentage points over the past decade in the Russian Federation. By contrast, employment rates in Chile and Israel are below the OECD average, despite modest rises since the mid-1990s. Estonia experienced an increase of 9 percentage points towards the end of the past decade, followed by a decline by the same amount in 2010. 

Employment rates for men are higher than those for women in all OECD countries with an average OECD difference of 16%. While employment rates for men have remained fairly stable in most OECD countries, there are larger differences across countries in how those for women have evolved. In particular, in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Chile, Italy, Germany and Greece employment rates for women have increased by more than 8 percentage points in this period, while the increase in Spain was as high as 15%, contributing to much of the rise in the total employment. Turkey has by far the lowest women's employment rate, at 26%, with Iceland remaining the highest, despite the recent decrease, at 77%. In the emerging economies, employment rates of men are markedly higher than those of women, by more than 23 points in Brazil and by 7 points in the Russian Federation.

Chile has below OECD-average employment rates for women despite increases (12 percentage points) over the last decade in excess of those recorded for men. By contrast, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia have above OECD-average employment rates for women, rising at a somewhat quicker pace than those of men since 2000.



Further information
Analytical publications
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Employment rates: total
    Table in Excel
Employment rates: men
    Table in Excel
Employment rates: women
    Table in Excel

Employment rates: total Figure in Excel
Employment rates: total
Employment rates: men Figure in Excel
Employment rates: men
Employment rates: women Figure in Excel
Employment rates: women

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