Hours of work - annual statistics

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Data extracted in July 2021

Planned article update: July 2022

Highlights
In the EU, in 2020, employers (47.1 hours) and own-account workers (39.7 hours) worked on average more hours per week than employees (36.2 hours) and contributing family workers (33.9 hours).
At EU level, 3.9 million people worked fewer hours than usual due to temporary lay-off in 2020, compared with 0.5 million in 2019.
The total volume of hours of work decreased from 2019 to 2020 by almost one-fifth in Greece (-19.7 %), Spain (-19.5 %), Portugal and Italy (-19.0 % for both).
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This article highlights the main aspects of the working time for different population sub-groups (i.e. employees versus employers and own-account workers). Special focus is given to the comparison between 2019 and 2020 in order to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results are presented for the European Union (EU) as a whole, for all EU Member States individually, as well as for three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and four candidate countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey).

This article complements the articles Employment - annual statistics and Labour market slack – annual statistics on unmet needs for employment. In addition, Hours of work - quarterly statistics provides information on the topic of working hours, but on a quarterly basis.

Results presented in the article are based on the whole population surveyed in the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), i.e. people aged 15 and over.


Full article


Men and employers worked more hours per week on average

In 2020, the EU average usual working week of employed persons in their main job consisted of 37.0 hours. This average hides many differences among countries (see Map 1). The longest usual weeks of work, above 40, were found in Poland, the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey. In contrast, the shortest usual working weeks, of less than 35 hours, were observed in the central axis corresponding to Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, with Norway and Switzerland.

Average number of usual weekly hours of work in the main job, 2020 - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_ewhun2)


Among the EU Member States, Greece (41.8 hours) recorded the longest average working week in 2020, and the Netherlands (30.3 hours) the shortest. If all EU-LFS participating countries are taken into account, the longest average working week was recorded in Turkey (44.5 hours), ahead of Montenegro (44.3 hours) and Serbia (42.3 hours).

Results broken down by gender show that in all countries the usual working week was longer for men than for women on average (see Figure 1). The largest gender gap in the EU was recorded in the country with the shortest working week for the total population, namely the Netherlands (34.5 hours for men versus 25.5 hours for women). The second- and third-largest gender gaps in the EU were in Austria (40.3 hours for men versus 32.0 hours for women) and Germany (38.4 hours for men and 30.4 hours for women). However, considering also non-EU countries, a larger gender gap could be found in Switzerland (39.1 hours for men versus 29.4 for women). In contrast, the length of the usual working week was much closer between genders in Romania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia, where the difference was smaller than 1 hour. For comparison, the usual working week for women was 34.1 hours at EU level, while it was 39.5 hours for men.

Figure 1: Average number of usual working hours in the main job by sex, 2020 - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_ewhun2)


With regard to the professional status, self-employed persons with employees, i.e. employers, had the longest usual working week at EU level in 2020, working on average 47.1 hours per week (see Figure 2). This is more than 10 hours more than the average for employees (36.2 hours). Among the EU Member States, the average working week for self-employed persons with employees exceeded 50 hours in Austria (50.5 hours), France (51.0 hours), Greece (52.4 hours) and Belgium (54.5 hours). On the other hand, Hungary (39.8 hours), Lithuania (39.5 hours) and Latvia (39.0 hours) registered a usual working week for employers shorter than 40 hours.

Figure 2: Average number of usual working hours in the main job by professional status, 2020 - Source: Eurostat (lfsa_ewhun2)


In the EU, the second-longest usual working week, comprised of 39.7 hours, was recorded for self-employed persons without employees, i.e. own-account workers. Among the EU Member States, this working week ranged from 48.0 hours in Greece and 47.2 hours in Belgium to 33.8 hours in Germany and 31.4 hours in the Netherlands.

With 36.2 hours usually worked per week, employees had the third-longest working week in the EU during 2020. This figure reached 40.4 hours in Romania, 40.2 hours in Bulgaria and 39.5 hours in Croatia, Cyprus and Poland. Other central-eastern European countries Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia, also had a relatively long usual working week of 39.3 hours. In contrast, Germany (34.3 hours), Denmark (32.7 hours) and the Netherlands (29.5 hours) had the shortest average working weeks for employees in the EU.

Finally, the contributing family workers showed the shortest usual working week in the EU, with 33.9 hours. However, this professional status corresponds to the largest variations among Member States. Contributing family workers had more than a 40-hour usual working week in Bulgaria (41.2 hours) and Greece (41.9 hours), whereas they worked usually less than 20 hours per week in Sweden (19.5 hours), Ireland (17.1 hours) and Finland (13.9 hours).

In 2020 more people worked fewer hours than usual

The number of employed people who had worked less than the usual working hours increased from 24.4 to 26.9 million, from 2019 to 2020 at EU level. At the same time, the number of people who worked more hours than usual decreased, from 15.7 to 12.8 million.

The increase in the number of people who had worked less than usual was primarily due to a rise in the number of those who had worked fewer hours due to temporary lay-off, as their number ballooned from 0.5 million in 2019 to 3.9 million in 2020 (see Figure 3). Furthermore, people who had worked less than usual for other reasons also increased between 2019 and 2020: from 4.7 to 5.8 million. This category "other reasons" includes maternity or paternity leave, parental leave, special leave, education or training, bad weather, labour dispute, start of change in job and end of job.

At the same time, those working fewer hours due to bank holidays (-1.6 million) recorded a sizeable decline. The number of people who had worked less because of variable hours, own illness and annual holidays decreased more mildly: by 0.3, 0.2 and 0.1 million, respectively.

On the other hand, those who had worked more hours than usual marked a decrease regardless of the reason for working more. The number of people who had overtime decreased the most, from 7.3 to 5.8 million between 2019 and 2020. The number of people who had worked more due to variable hours (-1.0 million) and other reasons (-0.5 million) decreased to a lesser extent.

Figure 3: People who actually worked more or less hours than usual in the main job by reason - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


The next figure (Figure 4) displays the number of employed people who worked less than their usual hours, expressed as a share of all employed people who worked at least one hour. In the EU, this percentage reached 15.9 % in 2020, up from 13.8 % in 2019.

More than one-quarter of those who worked at least one hour in the reference week, worked less than usual in Sweden (31.1 %), Austria (30.1 %), Finland (28.4 %), Malta (27.4 %) and France (25.5 %), as opposed to less than one in ten in Bulgaria (9.6 %), Lithuania (9.3 %), Latvia (8.8 %) and Romania (5.8 %).

Focusing on the development between 2019 and 2020, only Finland, Slovenia and Hungary among the EU Member States marked a decrease in the share of people who had worked less than their usual hours (of -0.6, -3.0 and -4.9 percentage points (p.p.), respectively). In contrast, Austria (+8.7 p.p.), Malta (+7.7 p.p.), Italy (+5.2 p.p.) and Czechia (+4.8 p.p.) reported the most substantial increases.

Figure 4: People who actually worked less than their usual hours in the main job - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


The share of people who had worked fewer hours than usual due to temporary lay-off reached 2.3 % in 2020, up from 0.3 % in 2019 (see Figure 5). All EU Member States (for which data are available) had a share below 1 % in 2019; the Netherlands (1.3 %) and Denmark (1.1 %) were the only exceptions. The situation in 2020 changed and the share of those who had worked less due to temporary lay-off surpassed the 1 % benchmark in 18 EU countries, reaching its highest values in Italy (4.0 %), Portugal (4.4 %), Malta (4.6 %) and Austria (6.3 %).

Figure 5: People who actually worked less than their usual hours in the main job due to temporary lay-off - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


In addition to the information above, many more people were totally absent from their jobs in their reference week in 2020 in comparison with 2019, meaning that more people were working zero hours in their reference week: 25.8 million in 2020 versus 19.2 million in 2019. The increase in the number of absences from work was primarily due to the increase in the number of temporary-lays, which jumped from 0.4 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020 (see Figure 6). More information on this topic can be found in the article Absences from work - quarterly statistics.

Figure 6: Absences from work by main reason - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hours worked by...

Due to the particularities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to mitigate its impact, many employed people were alternating between periods of being in and out of work. As shown above, more people worked less than usual and were absent from their jobs in 2020. The impact of these developments on the total volume of actual hours of work is the focus of the following section of the article. In particular, the percentage change between 2019 (the reference pre-pandemic period) and 2020 will be the tool to assess the impact of the pandemic on the labour input, in terms of hours worked in the main job.

...gender

Figure 7 shows the development from 2019 to 2020 in the volume of hours worked, in terms of percentage change between those two years. At EU level, the number of hours worked decreased by 12.0 %. All Member States also registered a decrease, which reached almost one-fifth in Greece (-19.7 %), Spain (-19.5 %), Portugal and Italy (-19.0 % for both). The least impacted EU countries, showing a reduction of less than 5 %, were Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Nonetheless, larger reductions in the volume of hours worked were found outside the EU: a decrease of 31.6 % in Montenegro and 22.2 % in Turkey.

Figure 7: Annual change in the volume of actual hours worked in the main job by sex - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


At EU level, the volume of hours worked decreased by 12.2 % for men and 11.8 % for women between 2019 and 2020. At national level, the hours for men dropped the most in Spain (-19.0 %), Greece (-18.5 %), Italy (-18.3 %) and Portugal (-17.4 %). Women in those four countries were also the most impacted in the EU, even more so than their male counterparts. The cut for women was 21.5 % in Greece, 20.5 % in Portugal, 20.0 % in Spain and 19.9 % in Italy.

Finally, in 20 out of the 26 EU Member States with comparable data between 2019 and 2020, women experienced a larger decrease in the volume of hours worked than their male counterparts. Among those 20 countries, the largest gender differences in the evolution between 2019 and 2020 were found in Slovenia (-9.1 % for men versus -13.3 % for women), Czechia (-9.2 % for men versus -14.7 % for women) and Lithuania (-6.6 % for men versus -14.0 % for women).

...economic activity

The annual change at EU level in the number of hours worked in the different sectors of economic activity is shown in Figure 8. Among all activities, the sharpest decline between 2019 and 2020 was recorded for “Accommodation and food service activities” (NACE Rev. 2 code I, -52.2 %), followed by “Arts, entertainment and recreation” (R, -35.8 %) and “Administrative and support service activities” (N, -29.8 %). In some sectors of the economy, however, the number of hours worked increased over the same period, with the most sizeable increases recorded in “Financial, insurance and real estate activities” (K and L, +6.9 %), “Public administration and defence; compulsory social security” (O, +13.5 %) and “Information and communication” (J, +21.7 %).

Figure 8: Annual change in the volume of actual hours worked in the main job by economic activity, EU - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


In almost all EU Member States, the steepest decrease in the hours of work was also recorded in the sector “Accommodation and food service activities” (see Figure 9). The only exception was Luxembourg, where “Accommodation and food service activities” recorded the second sharpest decrease. Furthermore, the largest cuts were found in Cyprus (-71.3 %), Ireland (-61.6 %), Slovenia (-61.0 %), Spain (-59.2 %) and Greece (-54.9 %). With the mildest drops, Denmark (-35.1 %), Romania (-34.9 %), Latvia (-34.6 %), Luxembourg (-33.5 %) and Hungary (-25.8 %) still had a contraction of more than one-quarter. In addition, the majority of the EU Member States had their second most heavily impacted sector in terms of decrease in the hours of work in either “Arts, entertainment and recreation” or “Administrative and support service activities”.

Figure 9: Annual change in the volume of actual hours worked in the main job by economic activity - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


On the other hand, most of the EU countries with comparable data between 2019 and 2020 recorded an increase in the number of actual hours worked in the sectors “Information and communication” (17 countries), “Public administration and defence, compulsory social security” (16 countries) and “Financial, insurance and real estate activities” (15 countries).

...occupation

The volume of hours worked decreased in 9 out of 10 occupational groups in the EU between 2019 and 2020 (see Figure 10). The largest cut was found in the group of “Service and sales workers” (-27.1 %). Decreases of more than one-fifth were also observed in the groups “Elementary occupations” (-23.0 %), “Technicians and associate professionals” (-21.9 %) and “Craft and related trades workers” (-20.3 %). The only group showing an increase between 2019 and 2020 was “Professionals” (+5.7 %).

Figure 10: Annual change in the volume of actual hours worked in the main job occupation, EU - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


All EU countries recorded a decline in the hours worked in the occupational groups of “Service and sales workers” and “Elementary occupations”; only one country per group showed a decrease lower than 10 %: Romania (-5.9 %) for the first group and Estonia (-9.4 %) for the second one. Furthermore, 17 EU countries (out of 26 with comparable data) saw their sharpest national decline in the hours of work in either one of those two groups (see Figure 11). Considering the “Service and sales workers”, the largest decrease was recorded in Slovenia (-37.5 %), followed by Cyprus (-37.1 %), Ireland (-34.2 %), Spain (-34.1 %) and Italy (-32.2 %). The largest cuts in the hours of work in the “Elementary occupations” were found in Portugal (-41.0 %), Ireland (-33.8 %), Greece (-33.1 %), Belgium (-30.3 %) and Croatia (-28.5 %).

Figure 11: Annual change in the volume of actual hours worked in the main job by occupation - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


In contrast, only 9 EU countries experienced a decline in the number of hours for those in the group of “Professionals”, and out of them, only Romania (-11.5 %) marked a decrease of more than 10 %. At the other end of the scale, Malta (+21.9 %), Hungary (+21.8 %) and Finland (+19.5 %) recorded the largest increases in the working hours for “Professionals”.

...professional status

Between 2019 and 2020, the total volume of hours worked for self-employed persons with employees (employers) decreased by 23.3 % at EU level (see Figure 12). This was the largest drop regarding the professional status of employed persons. The volume of hours worked by employers also fell in the vast majority of EU Member States between 2019 and 2020. Only Estonia and Latvia departed from this pattern with an increase of 3.2 % and 6.9 %, respectively. In contrast, the volume of actual hours of work dropped by 37.0 % in Slovenia, 36.1 % in Cyprus and 33.1 % in Lithuania, corresponding to the largest decreases among the EU countries.

Self-employed persons without employees (own-account workers) had the second-largest decrease in the number of hours of work between 2019 and 2020, corresponding to a reduction of 17.3 %. In comparison with employers, the situation for the category of own-account workers was more diverse regarding the evolution from 2019 to 2020. The volume of hours worked increased in five EU countries within this period; the largest increase was recorded in Hungary (+18.4 %), followed by Bulgaria (+12.1 %). Italy (-26.0 %), Ireland (-26.7 %) and Slovenia (-33.1 %) appeared at the other end of the scale with the largest decreases from 2019 to 2020. Germany also recorded a sizeable decrease from 2019 to 2020 (-30.1 %) but the results for this country should be treated with caution due to a break in the time series in 2020.

Figure 12: Annual change in the volume of actual hours worked in the main job by professional status - Source: Eurostat, ad hoc extraction from Labour Force Survey


Finally, the number of hours worked by employees decreased by 10.4 % between 2019 and 2020 at EU level. This decrease was reflected in all Member States. The largest cuts were recorded in Portugal (-17.7 %), Greece (-19.0 %) and Spain (-19.2 %), whereas the smallest declines were in Denmark (-4.6 %), Finland (-4.0 %) and the Netherlands (-3.2 %).


Source data for tables and graphs

Excel.jpg Data on Hours of work 2020

Data sources

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. Most of the information collected during the survey relates to the respondent's situation during a reference week (being generally the week, from Monday to Sunday, preceding the interview).

Coverage: The results from the survey currently cover all European Union Member States, the EFTA Member States of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, as well as the 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 27 EU 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.

Country note: In Germany, since the first quarter of 2020, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) has been integrated into the newly designed German microcensus as a subsample. Unfortunately, for the LFS, technical issues and the COVID-19 crisis has had a large impact on the data collection processes, resulting in low response rates and a biased sample. Changes in the survey methodology also led to a break in the data series. The published German data are preliminay and may be revised in the future. For more information, see here.

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.

Different articles on detailed technical and methodological information are available through:EU labour force survey.

Main concepts: Some main employment and working time 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;
  • actual hours worked in the reference week are the hours the person spends in work activities during the reference week;
  • usual hours worked are the modal value of the actual hours worked per week over a long reference period, excluding weeks when an absence from work occurs (e.g. holidays, leaves, strikes, ...);
  • temporary lay-off in the context of the hours of work refers to the situation where a person has worked less hours than usual due to slack work for technical or economical reasons;
  • other reasons for working less than usual namely include maternity or parental leave, special leave, education or training, bad weather, labour dispute, start of change in job and end of job.

For more information on the background definitions on hours of work and reasons for hours actually worked during the reference week being different from the person’s usual hours, please consult pages 59-63 and 67-68 from EU Labour Force Survey Explanatory Notes

Context

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 adds a new dimension to employment. The “average number of usual weekly hours of work in the main job” is an indicator aiming to give a perspective to the social conditions of the labour, while the volume of hours worked adds an economic perspective, insofar it serves as a proxy for the labour input to the production.

The employment rate and usual weekly working hours seem to be related: longer working hours imply a lower employment rate in a given country (see Figure 13). This suggestion is confirmed by the Pearson correlation coefficient equal to -0.69, meaning that there is a strong negative correlation between those two indicators. The statistical significance of this result is reaffirmed by a p-value below 0.01.

Figure 13: Linear correlation between employment rate (age group 15-64) and average number of usual working hours in the main job - Source: Eurostat (lfsi_emp_a), (lfsa_ewhun2)


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