Unemployment in developed and transition countries

Compared to the early 1970s, unemployment rates are now higher in almost all developed countries. In the 1990s, overall unemployment in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries rose from its already unacceptably high level at the end of the previous decade. The number of unemployed persons was 36 million.Especially grim have been developments in Europe. In OECD countries in North America and Oceania, unemployment has declined much more than in Europe in recent years. In Japan, the unemployment rate has traditionally been much lower than in other OECD countries, but it started to rise in 1992.
In 1996, unemployment in the OECD as a group rested at 7.5%, while it was 10.5% in European OECD countries. In Eastern Europe (see countries included) unemployment averaged 11.8%, while the European Union average was 11.3% in 1996. In these regions, unemployment was higher than the European average.Within each region, some countries are doing much better than others on the unemployment front. Unemployment has declined in Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom during the 1990s. However, it has increased in Finland, France, Germany and Spain, among other countries. In this decade, the structural unemployment rate has increased most in Finland. (OECD, Employment Outlook 1996, Implementing the OECD Job Strategy and Economic Outlook, December 1997) Within Eastern Europe, the Baltic states had a better-than-average employment situation.
Eurostat estimated that 18 million people were unemployed in the EU in October 1997. But unemployment rates vary greatly within the European Union – from 20.8% in Spain to 3.7% in Luxembourg.Since October 1996, unemployment has continued to fall in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal – and, more fitfully, in Belgium. But little change was detectable in Spain and Finland, the worst-performing countries.

Unemployment seems to have stopped rising in France, Italy, Sweden, and Germany. In Luxembourg and Austria, the situation has remained stable. (See Eurostat tables on seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, October 1995-October 1997 and EU Unemployment Steady at 10.7 per cent in October)

Both in the United States and Canada, the unemployment rate has declined steadily since 1995, but unemployment has been much lower in the United States. In November 1997, the unemployment rate was 4.6% in the US and 9.0% in Canada. (See United States Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), Table on seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in nine countries, 1975- November 1997)

In developed countries, unemployment is higher among women than men, and is also higher among young people. In the EU in October 1997, 12.6% of women were unemployed, as were 21.1% of people under 25 years of age. In the United States, the unemployment rate for women was almost the same as that of men, but unemployment among the young was much higher than average, at 11.0%. (See Eurostat, Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates)

Despite the general rise in school attendance, the proportion of young people who were neither in school nor working increased between 1984 and 1996. This increase was higher than the proportional increase in unemployment in general.

In Spain, youth unemployment (39.4%) was almost twice as high as the average unemployment rate. In October 1997, unemployment rates for youth were also above 20% in Italy, France, Finland and Belgium. An exception to this general picture is Germany, where youth unemployment is below the average rate.

In the EU, the unemployment rate for youth has fallen in line with the overall unemployment rate. However, unemployment among young women is much higher than among young men, and the difference is larger than between women and men in general.


One thought on “Unemployment in developed and transition countries

  1. Since the political and economic transition in the beginning of the 90s, unemployment is on the rise in Hungary like in all other post-socialist countries. During socialism the political leaders sacrified economic efficiency for the sake of the idea of full employment. It resulted not only an ill working economy but a latent unemployment, the so called indoor unemployment within the large factories and companies. According to contemporary western estimates the socialist production could have been achieved by 20% less labour staff. After the transition the rate of unemployment was not growing so fast as it could be expected. The most serious problems are the high rate of unemployment of the young and the number of unqualified working age population, especially the Gypsis. From west to east the labour situation is getting worse in the countryside.


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