Labour market

Almost 44.000 people are currently working in the inland navigation sector as crew members. 

The countries with the highest inland navigation labour force are the Netherlands, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium, Romania and Bulgaria. Together, they represent around 80% of the total inland navigation labour force in Europe. The graphic below depicts the split of this workforce in Europe and its evolution during the last 6 years.

Estimated development of the inland navigation labour market in Europe (freight and passenger sector, excluding land based personnel – in 1000 persons)

Source: Statistical pocketbooks, EUROSTAT; Belgium (RSVZ, ITB, RSZ); Germany (DESTATIS); University of Vienna (for Luxembourg); survey carried out in 2013 under Ministries, Trade unions and Employer organisations (Austria, Luxembourg and Bulgaria).


Today, labour force shortage has become a major concern for the sector and making inland navigation jobs more attractive has become a priority. Some major actors of European inland navigation are confirming this observation:


The decrease in the total inland navigation labour market described by many actors of inland navigation can be explained in the short run by the financial crisis, since operators have less cargo to transport and have a decreased demand for nautical personnel. During the last decades the shortage of labour force could partly be counterbalanced by technological innovations as well as the enhanced mobility of crew members from countries inside and outside Europe. But in the long run, a shortage due to less new workers on the market than retiring people should become more intense. Therefore, today’s aging of the workforce is  a challenge for the inland navigation labour market of tomorrow.

Age structure in the inland navigation sector of the Netherlands 
Source: Market Observation 2013 / Inland Navigation in Europe (CCNR/ European Commission/Panteia)


This situation is heterogeneous depending on the regions in Europe. For instance, a decline can also be seen in the registered inland navigation employment in most of the Eastern European countries. This could partly be the result of the migration of Eastern European workers to Western Europe, as the share of foreign workers from within the EU has seen an increasing trend in Germany and the Netherlands.

Distribution of area of origin on inland navigation mobile workers in the Netherlands
Source: International Labour Office, working paper N°297, December 2013


More information on the inland navigation labour market situation can be found in the following CCNR 2013 fact sheet :

CCNR Fact Sheet 2013 – Labour Market