Hours of work - annual statistics
Data extracted in May 2020.
Planned article update: June 2021.
This article highlights the main aspects of the usual working time of people in employment. It focuses on the average working hours per week in the main job. Results are presented for the European Union (EU) as a whole, for all EU Member States individually, as well as for the United Kingdom, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and four candidate countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey).
As the average working hours for the total employed population is influenced by several factors, e.g. the share of part-time workers, the repartition of the population in the different occupations, the proportion of the self-employed (self-employed work longer hours) and the activity rate of women (women have a higher rate of part-time work), this article presents several breakdowns, including professional status (employees versus self-employed).
This article complements the articles Employment - annual statistics, Employment rates and Europe 2020 national targets, Labour market statistics - professional status and Labour market slack – annual statistics on unmet needs for employment.
Average working hours by country, sex and occupation
In 2019, the EU-27 average usual working week of employed persons in their main job consisted of 37.1 hours (Figure 1). Among the EU Member States, the longest average working week was found in Greece (41.7 hours per week) and the shortest in the Netherlands (30.4 hours per week). If all EU-LFS participating countries are taken into account, the longest average working week is recorded in Turkey (45.4 hours per week).
Greece is also the EU Member State where men usually worked on average the most in 2019, with 43.9 hours per week, followed by Poland (41.8 hours per week), Czechia (41.5 hours per week) and Malta (41.4 hours per week). However, the EU Member State where women registered the highest average usual working hours is Bulgaria with 40.2 hours per week; this is the only EU Member State where the average is above 40 hours for women. By contrast, women in the Netherlands recorded an average of 25.5 hours per week.
When looking at the average usual working week by occupation, managers clearly appear on the top with 43.6 hours per week. Male and female managers recorded an average of 44.9 hours and 40.9 hours respectively. The two other groups of occupations corresponding to an average higher than 40 hours a week are the 'skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers' (41.9 hours) and the 'armed forces occupations' (40.7 hours).
Working hours for employees
When only employees are considered, the EU average working week in the main job corresponded in 2019 to 36.2 hours (Map 1). Male employees had on average a longer working week of 4.9 hours compared with female employees: men usually worked on average 38.6 hours per week and female employees 33.7 hours per week.
At national level, employees in Romania and Bulgaria had the longest average working week, with 40.5 and 40.4 hours respectively. All other EU-27 countries had a working week of less than 40 hours. Employees in the Netherlands had by far the shortest working week, with an average working week of 29.3 hours. Overall, the countries in the western and northern parts of Europe mainly work between 32 to just under 38 hours per week, with the employees in Portugal as an exception at 39.3 hours a week. The majority of the EU Member States on the east side of Europe fell in the same range as Portugal, with Estonia at one end of the scale (38.0 hours) and Poland and Cyprus at the other end (both 39.7 hours).
Outside the EU, employees in the four candidate countries had an average working week longer than 40 hours: North Macedonia (41.3 hours per week), Serbia (42.3 hours), Montenegro (44.4 hours) and Turkey (46.4 hours). Among the EFTA countries, employees in Norway and Switzerland worked on average 33.5 and 34.3 hours per week respectively, while those in Iceland worked 38.6 hours per week. In the United Kingdom, employees reported an average of 36.5 weekly working hours.
Self-employed usually worked longer than employees
In 2019, self-employed persons in the EU Member States had on average a longer working week than employees: 42.8 hours against 36.2 hours (Map 2). Male self-employed usually worked on average 7.2 hours longer than their female counterparts: 45.1 hours against 37.9 hours on average per week.
Self-employed persons in Belgium, Greece and Turkey had on average the longest working weeks, with 49.8 hours, 49.1 hours and 46.3 hours respectively. The shortest working weeks for self-employed persons can be found in the Netherlands, Cyprus, the three Baltic countries, Romania, Finland, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway, with working hours ranging from 36.1 to 39.8 hours per week.
Excluding these two aforementioned extreme groups, two other groups of countries can be distinguished: EU Member States where the self-employed worked between 40 to just under 42 hours, and EU Member States where self-employed persons worked between 42 to just under 46 hours a week. The first group consists of Hungary, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Croatia and Sweden (weekly hours ranging from 40.1 to 41.7). On the other hand, Bulgaria, Italy, Malta, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Spain, Austria, Ireland, France and Iceland and the three candidate countries North Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro form the second group with weekly hours worked ranging from 42.2 to 45.5.
What about full-time employees?
In 2019, at EU-level, employees working full-time had shorter working weeks than their self-employed counterparts. For part-time workers, this was the other way around: part-time employees had longer working hours than part-time self-employed persons. Nevertheless, the gap in weekly working hours between employees and the self-employed working full-time was much bigger than the gap for those working part-time: -7.2 hours versus +2.2 hours (Figure 3). Full-time employees had an average working week of 39.9 hours while full-time self-employed persons worked on average 47.1 hours per week. By contrast, part-time employees usually worked 21.1 hours per week and part-time self-employed persons 18.9 hours per week.
At national level, the biggest gap in usual working hours between employees and the self-employed working full-time can be found in Belgium (-13.7 hours) while the smallest gap is recorded in Lithuania (-0.8 hours). In Romania, as an exception, full-time employees usually worked longer than the self-employed working full-time (+0.7 hours).
In the majority of EU Member States (21 countries), employees working part-time had longer working weeks than their self-employed counterparts. For example, in Germany, part-time employees usually worked on average 3.8 hours longer than part-time self-employed persons. This could also be seen prominently in France and Austria, as part-time employees in these countries worked respectively 3.7 and 3.4 hours longer than part-time self-employed persons. On the other hand, in Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia and Lithuania, part-time self-employed persons had longer working weeks than employees (differences ranging from 0.2 to 4.0 hours).
Source data for tables and graphs
Source: The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) is the largest European household sample survey providing quarterly and annual results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over as well as on persons outside the labour force. It covers residents in private households. Conscripts in military or community service are not included in the results. The EU-LFS is based on the same target populations and uses the same definitions in all countries, which means that the results are comparable between the countries.
Reference period: Yearly results are obtained as averages of the four quarters in the year.
Coverage: The results from the survey currently cover all European Union Member States, the United Kingdom, the EFTA Member States of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, as well as four candidate countries Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. For Cyprus, the survey covers only the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.
European aggregates: EU refers to the sum of EU-27 Member States. If data are unavailable for a country, the calculation of the corresponding aggregates takes into account the data for the same country for the most recent period available. Such cases are indicated.
Definitions: The concepts and definitions used in the survey follow the guidelines of the International Labour Organisation. Employment covers persons aged 15 years and over (16 and over in Spain and Italy, 15-74 years in Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and 16-74 years in Iceland), living in private households, who during the reference week performed work, even for just one hour, for pay, profit or family gain, or were not at work but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent, for example because of illness, holidays, industrial dispute or education and training.
Employment can be measured in terms of the number of persons or jobs, in full-time equivalents or in hours worked. All the estimates presented in this article use the number of persons; the information presented for employment rates is also built on estimates for the number of persons.
The LFS employment concept differs from national accounts domestic employment, as the latter sets no limit on age or type of household, and also includes the non-resident population contributing to GDP and conscripts in military or community service.
Five different articles on detailed technical and methodological information is linked from the overview page EU labour force survey.
Main concepts: Some main employment characteristics, as defined by the EU LFS, include:
- employees are defined as those who work for a public or private employer and who receive compensation in the form of wages, salaries, payment by results, or payment in kind; non-conscript members of the armed forces are also included;
- self-employed persons work in their own business, farm or professional practice. A self-employed person is considered to be working during the reference week if she/he meets one of the following criteria: works for the purpose of earning profit; spends time on the operation of a business; or is currently establishing a business;
- the distinction between full-time and part-time work is generally based on a spontaneous response by the respondent. The main exceptions are the Netherlands and Iceland where a 35 hours threshold is applied, Sweden where a threshold is applied to the self-employed, and Norway where persons working between 32 and 36 hours are asked whether this is a full- or part-time position;
- indicators for employed persons with a second job refer only to people with more than one job at the same time; people having changed job during the reference week are not counted as having two jobs;
- an employee is considered as having a temporary job if employer and employee agree that its end is determined by objective conditions, such as a specific date, the completion of an assignment, or the return of an employee who is temporarily replaced. Typical cases include: people in seasonal employment; people engaged by an agency or employment exchange and hired to a third party to perform a specific task (unless there is a written work contract of unlimited duration); people with specific training contracts.
Employment statistics can be used for a number of different analyses, including macroeconomic (looking at labour as a production factor), productivity or competitiveness studies. They can also be used to study a range of social and behavioural aspects related to an individual’s employment situation, such as the social integration of minorities, or employment as a source of household income.
Employment is both a structural indicator and a short-term indicator. As a structural indicator, it may shed light on the structure of labour markets and economic systems, as measured through the balance of labour supply and demand, or the quality of employment. As a short-term indicator, employment follows the business cycle; however, it has limits in this respect, as employment is often referred to as a lagging indicator.
Statistics on the hours of work add a new dimension to employment. The “average number of usual weekly hours of work in main job” is an indicator aiming to give a perspective to the social conditions of labour.