EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Press release, 3 September 2008

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Eurofound publishes annual report on working time across the European Union

The gap in working times between Eastern and Western Europe remains wide

(DUBLIN, IRELAND) The average collectively agreed weekly working time in the European Union in 2007 stood at 38.6 hours, according to the annual update of the working time development from Eurofound’s European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO). The report, which looks at working time agreements set by collective bargaining, also found that average paid annual leave entitlement for European workers stood at 25.2 days across the EU in 2007.

There is still a substantial gap in working time between the former EU15 Member States and the majority of the new EU Member States, according to the report. The average in the EU15 stood at 37.9 hours in 2007 (the same as in 2006), compared with 39.6 hours (also unchanged from 2006) in the NMS12, a difference of 1.7 hours, or 4.5%.

The average collectively agreed normal working time, which covers some three-quarters of the labour force in Europe, has remained static overall in five of the former EU15 countries and Norway, and has fallen by less than an hour per week in three, the report says. Over the nine-year period 1999–2007, average agreed normal weekly hours in the former EU15 countries and Norway fell only slightly from 38.6 to 37.8, a reduction of 2.1%. Reductions of an hour or more have occurred in Luxembourg (1.0 hours), the UK (1.1 hours), Portugal (1.2 hours), Sweden (2.5 hours) and, most notably (driven by legislation), France (4.0 hours).

Since 2003, when EIRO started collecting data in the new Member States, the 40-hour working week has remained the standard in the majority of these countries. Exceptions to the 40-hour week are found in Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where agreed hours are closer to the EU15 average. Slovakia is the only country among the new EU Member States where considerable working hour reductions have been recorded over the past few years.

Across the European Union, the highest levels of actual weekly hours[i] worked by full-time employees in their main jobs are found in Bulgaria, Romania and the UK, and the lowest in France, Italy and Denmark. Ten of the 12 new Member States report actual working hours above the EU 27 average, compared with only three of the EU15.

The report, which also allows for the comparison of average collectively agreed annual paid leave entitlement for workers in the EU 27, affirms that the average number of fully paid holidays in Europe is 25.2 days per year. The average in the EU15 and Norway stands at 26.7 days, with great differences between Sweden (33 days) and Greece (23 days). Among the NMS, figures are available only for Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Romania and Slovakia, where the average is 21.9 days of paid leave per year.

Download the full report

For further information, contact Måns Mårtensson, Press Officer, at email or telephone +353-1-204 3124 or mobile +353-876-593 507.

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound, is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policy making with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. The Foundation was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975. The Foundation is located in Dublin, Ireland.

The European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) is Eurofound’s monitoring instrument offering news and analysis on industrial relations in all 27 EU Member States and Norway, and at European level.

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