The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis it triggered had unprecedented impacts on labour markets across the world. Agency work markets have also been significantly impacted. The latest update of the European Employment Barometer with data from the first quarter of 2021 provides key insights that shed some light on what happened in the year where the global pandemic unfolded:
- Employment in the EU27 was down by 2% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period of 2020, right before the pandemic started and the economic and labour market crisis ensued.
- There are vast differences across EU countries, but in most of them employment was still below pre-crisis levels in Q1 2021, with the exception being France, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
- Part-time employment across the EU27 as a share of total employment stood at 17.9% in Q1 2021, down from 18.1% in the previous quarter and down from 18.5% one year before.
- Temporary employment as a share of total employment in the EU27 saw a slight decline in Q1 2021 compared to the previous quarter and was down by half a percentage point compared to the same quarter of the previous year.
- Temporary employment overall dropped by 4.6% in Q1 2021 in the EU27 compared to one year prior, with low-/ and medium-educated temporary workers being primarily affected, whereas the number of temporary workers with tertiary education is up year-on-year.
- Hours worked by agency workers in Europe dropped sharply during the pandemic, in particular during Q2 2020, while quarterly year-on-year declines of the sector became increasingly less severe in the following quarters.
- Q1 2021 was the first time in three years where European agency work activity grew at a positive rate, compared to the quarter of the previous year, with hours worked by agency workers up 8.5% year-on-year.
The European Employment Barometer is an online interactive tool developed jointly by the World Employment Confederation (WEC) and Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA). It provides data on total employment, temporary employment, agency work and freelance work. It is regularly updated with data from Eurostat and data provided by WEC members.
For the latest statistics on agency work sector developments around the world, be sure to also look at the regularly updated data brief, published by the WEC, containing sector statistics up until August 2021. Activity in the agency work sector tends to be an early warning indicator of where the overall economy is heading, and the current crisis showcases this once again.