Work has obvious economic benefits, but having a job also helps individuals stay connected with society, build self-esteem, and develop skills and competencies. Societies with high levels of employment are also richer, more politically stable and healthier.

Employment rate

Across the OECD, about 68% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. Employment levels are highest in Iceland (86%) and Switzerland (80%) and lowest in South Africa (43%),Turkey (52%), Greece (53%) andItaly (58%) . Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education. Across the OECD, an estimated 78% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 52% for those without an upper secondary education.

Despite a steady increase in female employment rates over the past 15 years, women are still less likely than men to have a job. In 2016, on average across OECD countries, 60% of women had jobs, compared with 76% of men. The gender difference is particularly high in Turkey and Mexico, and relatively small in Canada, Iceland and the Nordic countries. The increase in employment rates for women may be explained by structural changes in the economy and society but also by policy factors such as the provision of childcare facilities, which have made it easier for mothers with young children to return to work.

Long-Term unemployment rate

Unemployed persons are defined as those who are currently not working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth, and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability. Such effects can last a long time, even after a return to work. Across the OECD, the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at about 1.8%.

Creating more and better jobs is a major challenge for governments. There is no difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. Faced with ageing populations and rising social expenditures, facilitating employment for those who can work has become a priority.


Average earnings

The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. Earnings represent the main source of income for most households. Analysing earnings may also suggest how fairly work is remunerated.

In the OECD on average, people earn USD 43 241per year, but average earnings differ significantly across OECD countries. In the United States, Luxembourg and Switzerland, average earnings are more than twice as high as in the Eastern European countries, Chile, Colombia, Greece, Hungary, Mexico, Portugal and South Africa.

Job security

Another essential factor of employment quality is job security, in terms of expected loss of earnings when someone becomes unemployed. This includes length of unemployment and how much government financial assistance you can expect. Workers face an expected 7% loss of earnings on average in OECD countries if they become unemployed. Workers facing a high risk of job loss are more vulnerable, especially in countries with smaller social safety nets. In Greece, the drop in earnings is  around30%, followed by Spain, around 23%, compared with less than 2% in  Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.

Jobs in Detail by Country