In 2019, an average of 2.3% of employees in the European Union (EU) aged 20-64 had a precarious job. According to the EU definition, precarious work means in this context that their work contract did not exceed three months’ duration.
According to the statistical office of the EU (Eurostat), the share of precarious employment, as a percentage of total employment, has remained relatively stable over the past decade, ranging from a low of 2.3% in 2009 to a high of 2.5% during the period 2015-2017.
However, Eurostat warns that this picture may change in the years ahead as the EU economy recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the confinement measures introduced by many EU Member States. The pandemic forced many businesses to cut employees’ hours, temporarily cease operations or to close their business permanently.
Finland was in 2019 the sixth European country with the highest percentage of precarious employment: 3.3%, according to Eurostat. This is well above the EU average (2.3%) and the rates recorded by the rest of the Nordic countries: Sweden (2.9%), Iceland (1.6%), Estonia (1.1%), Denmark (1%) and Norway (0.5%).
Article continues after graphic.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
In the European Union, employees in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector had the highest share of precarious work contracts, at 7.5% in 2019. Precisely, Finland is intensely looking for seasonal workers these days to collect crops and do farm work.
This was followed by the wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food service activities sector (2.8%) and the and the sector of the other service activities and the activities of households as employers (2.4%).
Highest in Croatia, lowest in Czechia
Among the EU Member States, Croatia has had one of the highest shares of precarious employment since 2012. However, since its peak in 2016 (8.0%) this share has been gradually decreasing, reaching 5.8% in 2019.
Other EU countries reporting the highest shares of precarious employment in 2019 were France (5.0%), Spain (3.8), Belgium (3.6%), and Italy (3.4%).
At the other end of the scale, Czechia and Romania recorded the lowest share of precarious employment (both 0.2%).
Between 2014 and 2019, most economic activities displayed seasonal fluctuations, however at different magnitudes. Overall, the third quarter had the highest number of employees with precarious jobs, says Eurostat.
Among all economic activities, the wholesale, retail trade, transport, accommodation and food service activities sector represented the sharpest fluctuations in the number of employees who had precarious jobs, with an average increase of 30% from the second to the third quarter.