Non-employment in Europe: A Comparative Analysis of Social Risk Groups in Household Contexts

Research question/goal: 

The European Union has set the goal to increase the overall employment rate; this implies lowering not only unemployment but also activating the inactive. The project therefore investigated all forms of non-employment in Europe comparatively. It also studied for Britain and Germany non-employment at individual and household level over time. First, it analysed welfare policy and labour market effects on national non-employment patterns in respect to gender, age and education. Second, the project explored how disadvantages on the labour market are accumulated or compensated within the household.

In respect to individual non-employment, welfare policies and labour market institutions have a marked heterogeneous impact on different social groups. Institutional arrangements that protect insiders such as employment regulation and powerful unions are related to greater disparity in non-employment across social groups. Centralized wage bargaining and social assistance correlate with higher employment of disadvantaged groups, thus fostering better social inclusion.

In addition, longitudinal analyses studied the regulated German and flexible British labour markets. Social differences in exits from non-employment and subsequent career trajectories were less problematic in Britain than Germany. While individual non-employment declined in both countries since the 1990s, household-level joblessness remained relatively stable. These contradictory trends suggest that there is an accumulation of non-employment in certain households. Polarization between dual earners and jobless couples increased more in Germany than in Britain, but the latter showed a higher polarization level over the period. While social differences between individuals are smaller in Britain, the equalizing effect of the household context is weaker. The prospects of German couples to leave non-employment vary by several aspects of household composition and by the labour market resources of both partners. In Britain, advantages of some couple households over others are mostly explained by women’s health and education.

Fact sheet

2011 to 2014
Data Sources: 
international and national statistics and institutional data, cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses
Geographic Space: 
Western Europe, case studies of Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the Netherlands



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