The unemployment rate as it is usually calculated provides an incomplete picture of the labour market situation and makes comparison between individual countries difficult. For a more accurate picture, the non-employment rate needs to be taken into account.
The unemployment rate provides an incomplete picture of the labour market. Moreover, this indicator often makes it difficult to compare one country to another, given the often very different institutional contexts. According to the definition provided by the International Labour Office, an unemployed person is a working-age person who is without work (that is, they have not worked for even an hour during a given week), unable to take up work within the following fifteen days, and has actively searched for work over the last month. As a consequence, many jobless people remain off the official statistical radars, since their situation doesn’t fall within these very strict criteria.
Thus, to make the unemployment rate more comprehensive, we propose using the non-employment rate. This indicator, calculated based on data provided every quarter by Eurostat’s labour force survey, allows us to grasp the total number of people without jobs within a specific age range. This includes all unemployed people in the strict sense of the term, along with people who are “inactive”, because they are not looking for work.
Typically, the unemployment rate is calculated with reference to the so-called “active” population (people who are employed or searching for employment) aged 15 to 65. We don’t use the same age range for calculating the non-employed rate: we have calculated it only in reference to those aged 25 to 59. The acceptable minimum age for retirement is a hotly debated topic in various EU member states, but almost everywhere there are good reasons for a large proportion of people over 60 to be unemployed – in particular, because of the physical effort required for jobs they had previously done, or because they started work at a very early age.
Similarly, it’s useful to recognise that a significant proportion of people under 25 in every country are in training or education, rather than work, though we shouldn’t forget that people in the same age-group who are looking for work cannot find it so easily nowadays in many EU countries. In any case, what should meet widespread consensus in our societies is that our economies be capable of providing – insofar as possible – work for all people aged 25 to 60, an age range which represents the heart of the working-age population. It’s for this reason that we chose to focus the non-employment rate on people aged 25 to 60: it provides a clearer picture than the unemployment rate on its own of the labour potential that