Press release, 16 August 2012

Eurofound publishes its Annual Update on working time developments in the European Union 2011:

Gap between agreed and actual working time across the EU remains wide

(DUBLIN, IRELAND) The actual working week for full time workers stood at 39.7 hours across the 27 EU Member States in 2011, according to Eurofound's latest annual update of working time developments, an average of 1.6 hours more than the agreed working hours. This comprises, nevertheless, a widening of the gap between agreed and actual working hours in the EU15, but a narrowing in the Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. Men continue to work longer hours than women on paid work - on average 2.1 hours more per week. The difference between countries at either end of the spectrum of leave entitlements in the EU remains huge at almost two and a half working weeks.

Eurofound's annual update on working time developments looks at a number of issues related to the time spent at work across all Member States of the European Union and Norway. The report provides a comparative overview of the present state of play and recent developments. Collective bargaining continues to play an important role in determining the duration of working time in most of the EU27 countries, though to a lesser or sometimes negligible extent in some of the Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 (NMS). Collective agreements set the working time conditions for an average of three quarters of all workers across the European Union, with large differences between countries. The relationship between bargaining and legislative provisions on working time continues to vary between countries.

In 2011, average collective agreed weekly working time in the European Union stood at 38.1 hours. The only reported changes in comparison to 2010 took place in Slovakia and Spain. France remains the country with the shortest average collectively agreed working week at 35.6 hours. The Nordic countries, together with the UK and the Netherlands, continued to register an average agreed normal working week below the EU15 average of 37.6 hours in 2011. In most of the NMS there is a uniform 40-hour working week, which corresponds in general to the statutory normal week in those countries. This is the case in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovenia.

The report also examines working time developments in detail in three sectors – chemicals, retail and civil service. The retail sector recorded the longest average agreed normal working week with 38.3 hours, followed by the chemicals sector with 37.9 hours and the civil service with 37.6 hours. The largest difference between the NMS and the EU15 countries can be found in the civil service sector, in which the normal agreed working week in the former group of countries is three hours longer than in the older Member States. The gap is 2.1 hours in the chemical and retail sectors.

In the EU27, the actual working week was 39.7 hours in 2011, 1.6 hours more than the agreed working hours. Across the 27 EU Member States, full-time employees in Romania worked the longest actual weekly hours in their main jobs in 2011 – 41.3 hours, the same as in 2010. They were followed by employees in Luxembourg (40.7), Germany (40.6), Estonia and the UK (both 40.5), Austria and Bulgaria (both 40.3), and the Czech Republic and Poland (both 40.2). Employees in Finland worked the shortest hours (37.8). This was 3.5 hours less than their counterparts in Romania or 4.5 weeks of work in Romania in a full year.

Actual weekly hours worked by full-time employees were longer than the average normal collectively agreed working week in 21 of the 28 countries covered in the report. The 2011 data shows a widening of the gap between agreed and actual hours in the EU15 countries, while it narrowed in the NMS.

Ten of the 12 NMS had actual weekly working hours at or above the EU27 average of 39.7 hours, compared with only seven of the EU15 countries. Only Slovakia and Malta had an actual working week that was slightly shorter than the EU27 average (39.6 hours). In the EU15, the longest actual full-time hours were worked in Luxembourg (40.7), Germany (40.6) and the UK (40.5), and the shortest in Finland (37.8), France (38.1) and Ireland (38.2).

In 2011, actual weekly hours worked by male full-time employees in their main jobs continued to exceed those of their female counterparts in all Member States. Across the EU27, men worked on average 2.1 hours more per week than women. The gap is wider in the EU15 than in the NMS. In the EU15, men work 2.3 hours more per week than women do; whereas, in the NMS, men work around 1.6 hours more.

The combined total of agreed annual leave and public holidays varied in the EU from 40 days in Germany to 27 days in Hungary and Romania – a difference of around 48% or 2.5 working weeks in a year. Other notably high-leave countries in 2011 included Italy and Denmark (with 39 leave days in total), while other notably low-leave countries included Estonia with 28 days, Poland with 29 days, and Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia with 30 days. The average figure for the EU27 was 34.2 days – 35.9 days in the EU15 and 29.4 days in the NMS.

The report is available at http://bit.ly/WTupd12

For further information, contact Måns Mårtensson, media manager, on email: mma@eurofound.europa.eu, telephone: +353-1-2043124, or mobile: +353-876-593 507.

Notes to the editor Eurofound provides social partners, governments and EU decision makers with relevant, timely and unbiased research results so that the lives of European citizens can be improved.

The Annual Update on working time developments in the European Union 2011 report follows the previous edition in the method it uses for calculating averages for the groups of EU Member States (EU27, EU15 and NMS12). The average figures provided for these country groupings are weighted in order to reflect the relative country sizes in terms of persons aged 15 to 64 who are employed full time, according to the Eurostat’s Labour Force Survey (LFS).

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