Jobs requiring low levels of educational attainment grow faster in U.S. than in Japan or Europe

October 01, 1998

Total employment grew by 27.6 percent in the United States between 1980 and 1996, compared with 17.6 percent in Japan and 3.1 percent in the major economies of Europe (France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and West Germany). Jobs requiring high levels of educational attainment grew at comparable rates in all these economies, but jobs requiring lower levels of education grew fastest in the United States.

Employment growth in lower educational attainment sector by country, 1980-96
NOTE: Time period for France and West Germany is 1980-1993.
[Chart data—TXT]

The United States' growth rate in jobs requiring lower levels of educational attainment averaged 0.9 percent per year during the period. Japan's growth rate for such jobs was slightly lower at 0.8 percent. In contrast, all four of the major European economies averaged an annual decline in such jobs: -0.9 percent in France, -0.7 percent in the United Kingdom, -0.4 percent in Italy, and -0.1 percent in West Germany.

As a result of these growth rates, the composition of employment across the countries showed different patterns. Three of the European countries have shifted towards sectors with higher education. The percentage of those employed working in jobs requiring higher levels of education rose from 36.6 percent to 46.7 percent in France from 1980 to 1993, from 35.6 percent to 45.1 percent in the United Kingdom from 1980 to 1996, and from 27.8 percent to 36.9 percent in Italy from 1980 to 1996. In contrast, the composition of employment by educational attainment has not shifted dramatically in the United States, Japan, or West Germany.

These data are produced by the Foreign Labor Statistics program. For additional information, see "Issues in Labor Statistics: Employment Growth Among Sectors in the United States, Japan, and Europe Based Upon Educational Attainment."


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Jobs requiring low levels of educational attainment grow faster in U.S. than in Japan or Europe on the Internet at (visited September 24, 2016).


Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics

  • A look at healthcare spending, employment, pay, benefits, and prices
    As one of the largest U.S. industries, healthcare is steadily growing to meet the needs of an increasing population with an increasing life expectancy. This Spotlight looks at how much people spend on healthcare, current and projected employment in the industry, employer-provided healthcare benefits, healthcare prices, and pay for workers in healthcare occupations.

  • Employment and Wages in Healthcare Occupations
    Healthcare occupations are a significant percentage of U.S. employment. Some of the largest and highest paying occupations are in healthcare. This Spotlight examines employment and wages for healthcare occupations.

  • Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
    Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.