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

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 elderly relatives.

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.



Further information
Analytical publications
Statistical publications
Online databases
Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

Employment rates by age group
    Table in Excel

Employment rates for age group 15-24 Figure in Excel
Employment rates for age group

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