The industrial structure of European economies and the types of occupation that they support are changing. This change takes many forms in different national contexts, but there are some common themes. There has been an increase in service-sector employment, both in low-skilled customer service work and in high-skilled ‘knowledge’ occupations, and a corresponding drop in manufacturing employment. This has contributed to a ‘polarisation’ of the workforce in many
countries, with more high-skill and low-skill jobs but fewer requiring mid-level skills. At the same time, young people are finding it increasingly hard to get a foothold in the labour market, and the proportion of the workforce employed on full-time, permanent contracts has shrunk.
Some of the changes are cyclical, the result of recession followed by a stuttering recovery. The rise in temporary work, for example, might be expected to recede when European economies are again growing strongly enough to bring unemployment down towards its pre-recession level.