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Single Market Scoreboard

Outcomes and competitiveness

This section of the Scoreboard presents a set of indicators assessing the performance of the single market in relation to some of its specific policy objectives.

On this page, you will find the main messages for these objectives. To find more detailed information on each objective, you can follow the links in the list below.

Main messages

Growth, employment and social indicators

In 2022, the EU industrial and services sectors continued to recover (albeit slowly) from the fall triggered by the COVID-19 preventive measures in 2020. Value added grew by 2.7% in industry and 4.2% in services. Over the past two decades, EU growth in these sectors has been broadly in line with the USA and Japan’s. Growth in China was higher, but its spread decreased over time; after the pandemic, it even turned negative for services. 

On average, the growth of value added in industry has been somewhat below growth in gross domestic product (GDP), reflecting a steady reduction in the weight of industry in the economy. In addition, on average, the growth of value in services has exceeded that in industry. Value added growth in large businesses has been remarkably higher than in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) since 2020. Furthermore, in 2020, the share of high-growth businesses was slightly below 10%.

EU employment grew by 2% in 2022. This was stronger than in Japan and the UK, but far below the growth experienced in the USA. In the EU, employment growth over the last decade has been driven by large businesses. In contrast, employment growth in SMEs has been subdued in recent years, only barely reaching pre-COVID-19 levels in 2023. 

Overall, employment in the first quarter of 2023 grew by some 3 million jobs, driven mostly by an increase in permanent employment. The EU’s adult employment rate has been growing in recent years. It was 74.6% in 2022 and is on track to achieving the EU target of 78% by 2030. There is still a gender gap in the employment rates of working-age women (almost 70%) and men (80%); this gap has persisted since the end of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

On average, only 37.4% of EU adults participated in education and training every year. This falls short of meeting the demand to keep the EU workforce sufficiently skilled to harness the opportunities of the digital and the green transitions and is well below the 2030 target of 60%.

As to other social indicators, in 2022, net earnings in the EU grew by 21.3% growth compared with 2014. However, earnings are still lower than in Japan, the UK and the USA for the three categories of households considered (single person with no children, one-earner couple with two children and two-earner couple with two children).

The number of accidents at work has fallen by a third over the last 15 years, reaching just over 2%. Work-related health problems have experienced a similar decline, but they have unfortunately increased slightly in recent years, reaching just over 10%.

Integration of goods and services

For both goods and services, trade integration in the EU has more than doubled in the past three decades. In 1993, trade integration in goods for the 12 EU countries in the single market at the time stood at 11.4% of the EU’s GDP. This has gradually increased to 26.3% in 2022 for today’s 27 EU countries. During the same period, trade integration in services grew from 2.9% to 7.5%.

In 2020, 15.48% of EU SMEs exported goods to other EU countries, with a small reduction from the share in 2019 (15.9%) that reflects the downturn in exports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The single market is the EU’s main source of trade in goods. It is about 60% higher than the EU’s trade in goods with the rest of the world. Trade in services within the EU remains broadly at the same level as EU trade in services with the rest of the world, which is at about 7.5% of GDP.

Apart from the USA’s internal market for goods, the EU can be considered to be much more integrated in both goods and services than other economic areas, whose main source of trade is outside their own area.

Price divergence has significantly decreased since the 1990s and continues to fall further. This decrease is the expected result of further market integration. However, the coefficient of variation has dropped from approximately 45% in 1996 to 25% in 2022.

Economic resilience

EU gross private investment measured as GDP shares  has recovered from the impact of covid-19 and was 19.2% in 2022, up from 18.7%in 2021 and higher than in the USA (17.8%). EU gross public investment (3.2% in 2022) has been relatively stable since 2020 and slightly below the level in the USA (3.4% in 2022).

Research and development expenditure as a percentage of EU GDP has been slowly growing in the last few years and stabilised at 2.27% in 2021.. However, the percentage remains well below that of Japan (3.34%) and the USA (3.46%).

EU applicants filed 151 applications per million inhabitants to the European Patent Office in 2022 and around 100 applications per million inhabitants under the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2021. The number of applications filed by EU applicants under the Treaty is much lower than those filed by residents in Japan (358.87) and the USA (168.99), but higher than in China (39.03) and the UK (86.20). 

The EU has far fewer universities in the global top 50 than the USA and slightly fewer than the UK, even though the UK has a significantly smaller population. However, the EU comes in ahead of both China and Japan. The number of EU universities in the global top 50 has remained relatively stable over time.

PISA scores of 15-year-olds in mathematics, reading and science show that, overall, EU students underperform compared to their peers in the UK, the USA, Japan, and China. In 2022, EU students performed worse in all three disciplines compared to 2018. 

In 2022, EU exports in goods and services accounted for 16.2% and 33.1% of the rest of the world's imports, respectively. Among China, Japan, the UK and the USA, only China’s goods exports captured a larger share of its respective market than the EU’s.

In 2020, the EU’s global market share in medium- and high-tech manufacturing was slightly higher (20%) than the USA’s (19.3%). However, both these shares are decreasing and are lower than China’s (23.5%).

The EU has an overall degree of import dependencies in sensitive sectors roughly comparable to China and the USA.  Out of all products imported by the EU from 2017 to 2020, the EU experienced strategic dependencies for 338 goods, accounting for only 11% of the total import value. The import concentration for a basket of critical raw materials at EU level in 2023 (data up to July) was moderate (0.22).

Electricity prices for EU non-household industrial users have been increasing since 2021. In the first half of 2023, the EU average price was €0.21 per KWh, similar to prices in the UK and Japan. Since 2021, prices in the EU (€0.21 per KWh), the UK (€0.28 per KWh) and Japan (€0.16 per KWh) have been a similar clear upward trend. This has further increased the difference with average prices in the USA (€0.07 per KWh) and G20 emerging industrial economies. However, despite the high price volatility between 2020 and 2022, EU prices remained remarkably more stable than the USA’s.

Digital transition

Overall, the single market continues its progress on the digital transition. According to the 2022 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), although there is progress in all its relevant dimensions, the connectivity dimension has seen the largest growth since 2015.

In 2022, the share of SMEs with at least a basic level of digital intensity in the EU was on average 69.1%, which is still far from the 2030 EU target of 90%. In 2021, the share of businesses with e-sales to other EU countries was 24% for large businesses and 9% for SMEs.

The share of EU businesses that have adopted digital technologies was 14% for big data (in 2020), 34% for cloud services (2021) and 8% for AI (2021). The EU’s common target for these three technologies is that at least 75% of EU businesses take up one or more of them by 2030.

In 2022, the average share of ICT specialists out of total employment in EU was 4.60%. This trend has been clearly increasing since 2015 but is still far from the 2030 target of 20 million ICT specialists (around 10% of total employment).

Green transition

In 2022, the EU’s average rate of use of secondary materials was only 11.5%, slightly increasing between 2019 and 2022. This suggests that the linear model (no reuse of material) still prevails. The value is very far from the EU 2030 target of 23.4%. 

The EU municipal waste recycling rate increased to 48.7% in 2021, still off the EU target of 55% by 2025. The EU’s material productivity improved slightly over the last 3 years, probably due to a combination of efficiency gains and structural changes in the economy.

On climate-neutrality and zero-pollution objectives, the indicators show a positive trend in the EU economy’s greenhouse gas emission intensity (down by 17% in 2021 compared with 2018). The air emission intensity of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in manufacturing was stable at 0.07 grams per euro between 2018 and 2020, despite a previous decrease due to EU countries applying best available techniques. This suggests the need for further efforts to move towards zero-pollution industry in the EU. The eco-innovation index, which can boost green industrialisation, has improved slightly since 2017.

According to their own declarations, a very high share of businesses (90-95% of different sizes) carried out some type of energy efficiency measures in 2021. Furthermore, on average, about one third of EU businesses (32% of SMEs and 46% of large businesses) declared that they offered green products or services in 2021.

Renewable energy deployment in the EU has been steadily increasing in recent years. In 2020, energy from renewable sources was 22% of gross final energy consumption compared with shares between around 9% and 14% in the UK, the USA, Japan and China. In 2022, the EU share rose to 23%. However, the EU must increase its current share to achieve its 2030 target (42.5%) in less than a decade.


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