Europe and Central Asia Knowledge Brief

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This is a regular series of notes highlighting recent analyses, good practices, and lessons learned from the development work program of the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region.

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Employment Recovery Stalls in Europe and Central Asia

2013-04, Koettl, Johannes, Saiovici, Gady, Santos, Indhira

Employment recovery stalls in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) continues to recover in most ECA countries, but the recovery remains fragile. Growth prospects remain poor in a number of countries where GDP continues to decline. This slowdown in the economic recovery is also evident at the sub-regional level. Unemployment has stabilized, with an average unemployment rate of 12 percent across the ECA region. Since the start of the crisis, men have been disproportionally hit by unemployment. The recent pace of job creation has not been sufficient to absorb the large pool of unemployed, resulting in growing long-term unemployment. Despite the rise in long-term unemployment, activity rates have increased or remained constant in most countries since 2008. ECA labor markets adjusted to the crisis not only through higher unemployment, but also through fewer work hours. Given the already low levels of employment in the region and a bleak demographic outlook, avoiding labor market detachment among the long-term unemployed, the inactive, and youth is the main challenge for policy makers in the near term.

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Reshaping Economic Geography : Implications for New EU Member States

2009-04, Gill, Indermit, Roberts, Mark

The ongoing crisis should spur deeper European integration, rather than a return to the nationalism of the past. The World Development Report 2009, reshaping economic geography, spotlights several issues for new European Union (EU) member states. From 1950 to 1990, Eastern Europe was impermeable to the flow of goods, services and ideas from the West, and grew slowly. During the same period, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in fourteen Western European economies grew at three times the pace of Eastern Europe. The drivers of West European growth were market economies, regional cooperation, and global economic integration. The European Economic Community, started by six Western European nations in 1957, continued to increase its membership with the ultimate aim of full economic and monetary integration. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, the EU10 countries, along with Malta and Cyprus, joined the expanded European Union, an economic zone based on the principles of democracy, markets and the free mobility of goods, capital and labor. The 27country European Union has a combined population of almost 500 million people and accounts for over 30 percent of the world's GDP. But the legacy of division has meant that the EU10 countries lag considerably behind most of the other member states. While the EU10 have brought 123 million people into the European Union, they have reduced its average level of GDP per capita by an estimated 15.6 percent.

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Employment Recovery in Europe and Central Asia

2011-06, Koettl, Johannes, Santos, Indhira

Despite high unemployment in most Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) countries, people have not withdrawn from the labor market but continue to actively look for jobs. Unemployment increased significantly in ECA countries during the crisis, particularly among youth. However, young people are also the ones benefiting most from the recovery. Labor market recovery remained sluggish up to the third quarter of 2010. Many countries have seen only a slight recovery in unemployment rates, although output is recovering everywhere. Up to the third quarter of 2010, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) upturn in most ECA countries appeared to be driven by increases in productivity and hours worked; however, these are still below pre-crisis levels. This suggests that there is room in most countries for further increases in productivity and hours worked, which could delay the recovery in employment.

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Unemployment Registration and Benefits in ECA Countries

2011-04, Kuddo, Arvo

Public Employment Services (PES) in several Europe and Central Asia (ECA) countries are severely limited by underfunded labor market programs, understaffing, and fragmented networks of employment offices. Cash benefits and other entitlements like health insurance often act as incentives to job seekers to register with PES. However, such benefits can and often do encourage unemployment registration by economically inactive individuals. Registered unemployment exceeds survey based unemployment rates in about half of ECA countries (mostly Central Europe and Western Balkans). Registered unemployment is much lower than survey-based unemployment in the Baltic States and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, primarily due to low access to unemployment benefits and active labor market programs (ALMPs). The numbers of unemployment assistance beneficiaries vary significantly across ECA. In 2009, for example, 85 percent of the registered unemployed in Russia received benefits but, in eight ECA countries, less than 10 percent of the registered unemployed received such assistance.