The Irish working week (as laid down by formal labour agreements) is longer than in wealthier EU states such as France, Germany, Britain and Italy according to new research from Eurofound, the Dublin-based EU research agency. France has the shortest working week of all. See Figure 1.
However Ireland's work-force lags behind most other EU states when it comes to hours spent in the workplace each week. When the actual hours worked (including overtime) are taken into account, Ireland ranks 25th out the 27 Member States. See Figure 2.
In general, Eurofound says that European workers spend more time at work than in previous years. However, there are important differences between the collectively agreed (i.e. formal labour agreement) weekly hours and the actual working week, which is generally longer.
Note: the data should be interpreted in conjunction with the notes in Annex 1 of the report; The annual update on working time developments 2010 is available here.
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Figure 1: Average collectively agreed normal weekly hours
Figure 2. Average number of actual weekly hours of work in main job, full-time employees
The actual working week of full-time employees was longer than the average normal collectively agreed (i.e. by formal labour agreement) working week in almost all EU Member States in 2010, according to Eurofound’s latest annual update of working time developments.
This effectively reverses the trend, visible since 2006, of a narrowing gap between actual and collectively agreed working hours. The report also finds that average annual leave entitlements combined with public holidays in the add up to an EU average of 35 days; however, but the difference between countries at the two ends of the leave spectrum is huge – almost two-and-a-half working weeks.
Working time developments 2010 looks at a number of aspects of working time in the European Union and Norway in 2010, and it provides a general overview of the present state of play and recent developments.
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.
‘Collective bargaining remains an important role in determining the duration of working time in most of the countries, though to a lesser or sometimes negligible extent in some of the new Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007,’ says Juan Menéndez-Valdés, Eurofound’s Director.
Across the EU27, the average agreed working week was 38 hours long in 2010, an increase of 0.1 hours in relation to the 37.9 recorded in 2009, 38.6 hours in 2008 and 2007.
In the 12 new Member States (NMS), the working week remained at 39.7 hours, which means that the gap between older and newer Member States was slightly reduced from 2.2 to 2.1 hours in 2010. The average collectively agreed working week in the EU15 was 37.6 hours, an increase of 0.1 hours in relation to 2009.
The manufacturing sector recorded the longest average agreed normal working work, at 37.6 hours (metalworking), followed by public sector (local government, 37.5 hours) and the services sector (banking, 37.3 hours). The agreed working week is higher in all three sectors in the NMS than in the former EU15 Member States. The largest gap is in the banking sector, in which the normal agreed working week in the NMS is 3.1 hours longer than in the EU15. In the local government and metalworking sectors, the gap is 2.7 hours and 2.4 hours respectively.
In the EU27, the actual working week was 39.7 hours in 2010, 1.7 hours longer than the agreed working week. In the EU15 it was 39.4 hours, 1.8 hours more than the agreed hours. Meanwhile in the NMS, it was 39.9 hours, 0.2 hours longer than the agreed working week for that group of countries.
The longest actual working weeks, for full-time employees in their main jobs in 2010, were in Romania (41.3 hours), followed by Luxembourg, the UK, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
The shortest actual working week was in Finland (37.8 hours). This was 3.5 hours more than in Romania, giving Romanians a working week that was longer by 9.24%. And in 2010, the actual weekly hours of male employees working full time in their main jobs continued to exceed those of their female counterparts in all countries considered.
An important factor in the overall duration of working time is the amount of paid annual leave to which workers are entitled. Across all the countries of the EU27 (and Norway) for which data are available, the average collectively agreed entitlement is 25.4 days.
Agreed annual leave entitlement in the EU15 varies from 30 days in Denmark and Germany to 25 days in Finland, France, the Netherlands (and Norway) to 24.6 days in the UK and 24 in Ireland. In the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovakia and Romania, the average collectively agreed paid annual leave is 24.1 days.
The number of public holidays (excluding those falling on Sundays) varied across the EU in 2010, from 14 in Spain to five in the Netherlands. The average figure for the EU27 was 9.6 public holidays, with the NMS having, on average, fewer (8.7 days) than the EU15 (9.9). The combined total of agreed annual leave and public holidays varied in the EU from 40 days in Germany and Denmark to 27 days in Romania – a difference of around 48% or two-and-a-half Romanian working weeks. The average figure for the EU27 was 34.4 days – 35.7 days in the EU15 and 29.6 days in the NMS.
1. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite EU body that provides European social policymakers with comparative data, research and recommendations.