European Labour Force

Research question/goal: 

A major aim of the project was the establishment of a detailed database on the development of the European labour force since the late 19th century, allowing for the comparative study of growth and structural changes in employment. Labour markets have been subject to manifold processes of growth and change in the aftermath of industrialization and the growing international division of labour. Increasingly they shape social structures and life chances of ever larger parts of the population. One core question relates to commonalities and differences in the developmental paths that individual countries in Europe have followed. Are there different “families of nations”, and can these different trajectories be related to differences in historical configurations? The project was planned as a further contribution to the MZES series of historical data handbooks (‘Societies of Europe’ series), but it ends with a data collection available for future analyses. The data collection focuses on three core aspects of socio-economic development: (i) variations in labour market participation, (ii) sectoral change, and (iii) changes in status of employment. It consists of 4 parts and comprises 15 West European countries. The first three parts have been compiled from national occupational censuses. 

  1. Tables on employment structure by industry, employment status and sex, 1880-2000. For this purpose, historical classifications of industry and status of employment were converted to international standard classifications of the United Nations.
  2. Tables on labour market participation by age group, sex and marital status, 1920-2000.
  3. Tables on regional employment structures, 1950-1990.
  4. Comparison of time series on unemployment offered by OECD and by ILO, dating back to the 1960s in some cases.

Data collection and related documentation will be available on MZES intranet by end of February 2011 for use by researchers at the Centre.

Fact sheet

2005 to 2010
Data Sources: 
Aggregate data and microdata (population censuses, labour force surveys)
Geographic Space: 
Western Europe, Poland, Hungary, former Czechoslovakia and her successor states