Labour markets differ in how they allocate employment
opportunities among people of different ages. Employment rates for people of different
ages are significantly affected by government policies with regard to higher
education, pensions and retirement age.
The employment rate for a given age group is measured
as the number of employed people of a given age as a ratio of the total number of
people in that same age group.
Employment is generally measured through national
labour force surveys. In accordance with the ILO Guidelines, employed persons are
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 in 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
Employment rates are shown for three age groups:
persons aged 15 to 24 are those just entering the labour market following education;
persons aged 25 to 54 are those in their prime working lives; persons aged 55 to 64
are those who are approaching retirement.
All OECD countries use the ILO Guidelines for
measuring employment. Operational definitions used in national labour force surveys
may, however, 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.
Employment rates for people aged 25 to 54 are
relatively similar between OECD countries, with rates in all countries except
Turkey ranging between 70% and 86% in 2010. Cross-country differences are larger
when looking at the youngest age group where, in 2010, employment rates ranged
between less than 26% in Hungary, Greece, Italy, the Slovak Republic, Luxembourg,
Korea, Belgium and the Czech Republic and over 60% in the Netherlands, Iceland,
Switzerland and Australia. Employment rates for the oldest age group also vary
considerably, between 70% or more in Iceland, New Zealand and Sweden and less than
35% in Turkey, Poland, Hungary and Slovenia. Chile, Estonia and Israel have
prime-age rates below the OECD average, whereas Slovenia is 8 points above the
average. Youth rates for all new members are below the OECD average. In the
emerging economies, employment rates for youths and older workers are above the
OECD average only in Brazil, while those for people of prime working age exceed
the OECD average by more than 8 percentage points in the Russian Federation.
Over the period from 1990 to 2010, employment
rates for the youngest age group have declined by 10 percentage points for the
OECD as a whole, with large decreases in Sweden, Portugal, Estonia, Luxembourg,
the United Kingdom, Turkey, Finland and the United States (between 15 and 27
percentage points). This partly reflects government policies to encourage young
people to increase their educational qualifications and general employment
conditions, but also the difficulties experienced by youths to get a foothold in
the labour market. For people in their prime working age, employment rates have
remained stable for the OECD as a whole, with significant falls in Estonia, and
large gains in the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain. The
employment rates for older workers increased by 6 percentage points on average,
with the largest increases recorded in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany,
Australia, Belgium and Finland, while they fell in Turkey.
Burniaux, J.M., R. Duval and F. Jaumotte
(2004), “Coping with Ageing”, OECD Economics
Department Working Papers, No. 371.
OECD (2010), Off to a
Good Start? Jobs for Youth, OECD Publishing.
OECD (2006), Ageing and
Employment Policies, OECD Publishing.
OECD (2000), From Initial Education to Working Life: Making Transitions
Work, OECD Publishing.
|Indicator in PDF
|Employment rates by age group
|Employment rates for age group