18 January 2022

Adobe Stock/mrmohock

At the end of December 2021, Eurostat released a new report covering preliminary data on research and science between 2010-2020.[1] The data reveals interesting insights on the research landscape in the European Union and Poland. The key highlight is that between 2010 and 2020 the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers has increased significantly in the whole European Union. The EU average increase is more than one-third (40.53 %): from 1.34 to 1.89 million. In Poland it almost doubled, being one of the most significant increases among the EU Member States. This article analyses the most interesting data on FTE researchers in Europe and Poland.



Eurostat data indicates that in 2020 1.89 million researchers were working in the EU Member States. It is 546 thousand more compared with 2010.[2] There were 124 400 full-time equivalent researchers in Poland in 2020, 59 900 more than in 2010. Moderately high growth rates were also recorded in the Netherlands (89%), Malta (69%), Cyprus (67%) and Ireland (66%). The only EU Member State that registered the opposite tendency was Romania, where the number of researchers in FTE fell by 7%.

Sectors and gender – a research landscape

In 2020 more than half (55.4%) of full-time equivalent researchers in the European Union worked in business enterprises, 32.6 % in higher education and 11.1 % in the government sector. In Poland, most full-time equivalent researchers (50.8%) are employed in higher education. An estimated 2.6% of FTEs in this country are employed in the government sector, way below the European average. Researchers working in Poland for business enterprises make around 46%, while researchers employed in the private non-profit sector 0.4% (EU average 0.8%).

In the EU, men accounted for two thirds (67 %) of researchers, women 33%  in the EU in 2019. The gender gap was the largest in France, Czechia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where close to three-quarters of all researchers were men. In the case of Poland, female researchers make around 38%, compared to 62% of male researchers. The most equal gender ratio in terms of FTEs can be spotted in Latvia (51% of female researchers), Lithuania (49% of female researchers) and Croatia (48% of female researchers).

Eurostat claims that “the country’s potential research capability is provided by many doctoral (PhD) students”.[3] In 2019, there were an estimated 651 thousand doctoral students in the EU. Women accounted for slightly less than half (an estimated 48.0 %) of postgraduate students in the EU in 2019.


R&D personnel

Another number that can provide some information about the scientific potential of each country is R&D personnel’s share in the total labour force of each country. The European Union average is 1.4 %. The percentage of R&D personnel in the entire labour force ranges from 0.4 % in Romania and 0.5 % in Cyprus up to 2.0 % in Finland and 2.1% in Belgium in Denmark. In Poland, R&D personnel in all sectors accounted for no more than 1%.

The report also copes with human resources in science and technology (HRST), measuring „the demand for and the supply of people with high qualifications in science and technology”.[4] However, it is essential to mention that a broader meaning of science has been used, as HRST by education covers all fields of study, in other words, anybody who successfully completed a tertiary level education. According to this variable mentioned in the report, in the European Union 72.0 million people were employed in HRST occupations in 2020, accounting for over half (54.8 %) of the total labour force in Luxembourg in 2020 and for around two fifths in Sweden (45.5 %), Finland (44.8%), Denmark (44.0 %), the Netherlands (43.3 %). The lowest shares appeared in Romania (20.9 %), Greece (24.0 %), Bulgaria (26.0 %) and Spain (26.3 %). In Poland, it’s around 33% of the labour force.

Out of people who possess a tertiary level education (HRST), we can distinguish a ‘core’ group of people (HRSTC) who are employed in science and technology occupations. Since 2012 there has been a considerable increase of people classified as HRST ‘core’ within the EU’s labour force, from 18.2% to 22.6 % in 2020. In Poland, the rate of HRSTC is around 24%.


R & D personnel – Statistics Explained (europa.eu)


[1] R & D personnel – Statistics Explained (europa.eu)

[2] On the rise: EU has 1.89 million researchers – Products Eurostat News – Eurostat (europa.eu)

[3] R & D personnel – Statistics Explained (europa.eu)

[4] R & D personnel – Statistics Explained (europa.eu)