Magazine article European Social Policy

Working Time : One Worker in Seven Puts in Long Hours

Magazine article European Social Policy

Working Time : One Worker in Seven Puts in Long Hours

Article excerpt

Since 1991, there has been a continual decrease in the number of weekly working hours in the European Union. The trend altered slightly in 2005 after the accession of the ten new member states, where average weekly working hours are higher. This is one of the findings of the European Foundation's fourth Working Conditions Survey. But even in these member states, the percentage of people working more than 41 hours a week has decreased since 2001, whereas the number of people working less has increased.

In general, people in southern and eastern Europe tend to work longer hours per day and have longer working weeks, whereas people in western and northern Europe have shorter days and weeks.


Fourteen percent of workers in Europe, the equivalent of one in seven, works long hours (more than 48 hours per week). These are mainly men. One man in five (20%) has a heavy weekly schedule compared with 8% of women (excluding unpaid domestic work, which is mainly performed by women). There is also a distinction between independent workers and employees. Some 44% of independent workers work long hours, compared to 10% of employees.

Long working hours are more common in the agriculture sector (50% of workers), the hotel and restaurant business (25%) and construction (21%). In terms of professions, senior managing directors in the public sector are the most exposed.


Standard working hours appear to be the norm for most workers. The number of workers working at nights or weekends has gone down since 1995.

Working time in Europe can be described as broadly uniform. Throughout the EU27, working times generally tend to be five days a week (40 working hours) for most labourers. More than 55% of all workers work the same number of hours per day. More than 70% work the same number of days per week. Over 60% have set starting and finishing times. …

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