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Behind and beyond the (headcount) employment rate


  • Andrea Brandolini

    () (Bank of Italy)

  • Eliana Viviano

    () (Bank of Italy)


This paper argues that we need more general statistical indices to analyse European labour markets. First, the paper discusses some normative aspects implicit in the current definition of the employment rate, which is a fundamental policy target in the new Europe 2020 strategy. Second, it proposes a class of generalised indices based on work intensity, as approximated by the total annual hours of work relative to a benchmark value. Third, it derives household-level employment indices within a consistent framework. These indices provide a more nuanced picture of the European labour markets, which better reflects the diversity in the use of part-time and fixed-term jobs as well as other factors affecting the distribution of work across and within households.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrea Brandolini & Eliana Viviano, 2014. "Behind and beyond the (headcount) employment rate," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 965, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdi:wptemi:td_965_14

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrea Brandolini, 2002. "Education and Employment Indicators for the EU Social Agenda," Politica economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 1, pages 55-62.
    2. Paul Gregg & Rosanna Scutella & Jonathan Wadsworth, 2010. "Reconciling workless measures at the individual and household level. Theory and evidence from the United States, Britain, Germany, Spain and Australia," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(1), pages 139-167, January.
    3. Paul Gregg & Jonathan Wadsworth, 2008. "Two sides to every story: measuring polarization and inequality in the distribution of work," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 171(4), pages 857-875, October.
    4. Kolm, Serge-Christophe, 1976. "Unequal inequalities. II," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 82-111, August.
    5. Erich Battistin & Enrico Rettore & Ugo Trivellato, 2007. "Choosing between alternative classification criteria to measure the labour force state," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 170(1), pages 5-27, January.
    6. Anthony Shorrocks, 2009. "Spell incidence, spell duration and the measurement of unemployment," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 7(3), pages 295-310, September.
    7. Andrea Brandolini & Piero Cipollone & Eliana Viviano, 2006. "Does The Ilo Definition Capture All Unemployment?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(1), pages 153-179, March.
    8. Nolen, Patrick, 2013. "Unemployment and household values: Distribution sensitive measures of unemployment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 354-362.
    9. Atkinson, Tony & Cantillon, Bea & Marlier, Eric & Nolan, Brian, 2002. "Social Indicators: The EU and Social Inclusion," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199253494.
    10. Marloes Graaf-zijl & Brian Nolan, 2011. "GINI DP 5: Household Joblessness and its Impacts on Poverty and Deprivation in Europe," GINI Discussion Papers 5, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    11. Bea Cantillon, 2011. "The Paradox of the Social Investment State. Growth, Employment and Poverty in the Lisbon Era," Working Papers 1103, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    12. Kolm, Serge-Christophe, 1976. "Unequal inequalities. I," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 416-442, June.
    13. Anthony B. Atkinson & Andrea Brandolini, 2015. "Unveiling the Ethics behind Inequality Measurement: Dalton's Contribution to Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 0(583), pages 209-234, March.
    14. Marx, Ive & Vandenbroucke, Pieter & Verbist, Gerlinde, 2011. "Can Higher Employment Levels Bring Lower Poverty in the EU? Regression Based Simulations of the Europe 2020 Target," IZA Discussion Papers 6068, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
    16. Terry Ward & Erhan Ozdemir, 2013. "Measuring low work intensity – an analysis of the indicator," ImPRovE Working Papers 13/09, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    17. Jenkins, Stephen P & O'Leary, Nigel C, 1996. "Household Income Plus Household Production: The Distribution of Extended Income in the U.K," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(4), pages 401-419, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. John Komlos, 2019. "The Real U.S. Unemployment Rate Is Twice the Official Rate, and the Phillips Curve," CESifo Working Paper Series 7859, CESifo.
    2. Franecsca Carta, 2019. "Timely indicators for labour income inequality," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 503, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    3. Andrea Brandolini & Eliana Viviano, 2014. "Accounting for total work," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 253, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    4. Eliana Viviano & Andrea Brandolini, 2018. "Measuring employment and unemployment," IZA World of Labor, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), pages 445-445, August.
    5. Guido Bulligan & Elisa Guglielminetti & Eliana Viviano, 2017. "Wage growth in the euro area: where do we stand?," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 413, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    6. John Komlos, 2020. "The Actual U.S. Unemployment Rate Was 24.4% in May 2020," CESifo Working Paper Series 8383, CESifo.
    7. Andrea Brandolini & Eliana Viviano, 2016. "Accounting for total work in labour statistics
      [Der Gesamtbetrag der Arbeit in den Arbeitsmarktstatistiken]
      ," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 49(3), pages 199-212, November.
    8. John Komlos, 2019. "Estimating Labor Market Slack, U.S. 1994-2019," CESifo Working Paper Series 7941, CESifo.
    9. Marco Paccagnella, 2015. "Skills and Wage Inequality: Evidence from PIAAC," OECD Education Working Papers 114, OECD Publishing.

    More about this item


    employment rate; jobless household rate; work intensity;

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity

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