Press release, 28 July 2009

Eurofound publishes its annual report on working time developments across the European Union

Stark differences in working time across Europe

In 2008, the average collectively agreed weekly working time in the European Union remained unchanged at 38.6 hours, according to the annual update on working time developments from Eurofound, the Dublin-based EU Agency. The report, which looks at working time agreements set by collective bargaining, also found that the average paid annual leave entitlement for workers in Europe was 25.2 days across the EU in 2008; however, some countries had up to three weeks’ more holidays than others.

There are substantial differences in working time between the former EU15 Member States and the majority of the new EU Member States (NMS12), according to the report, Working time developments – 2008. The average working week in the EU15 was 37.9 hours in 2008 (the same as in 2007). It was longer in the NMS12 – 39.5 hours (down very slightly from 39.6 in 2007), a difference of 1.6 hours or 4.2%.

For most European workers, collective agreements are the main way in which working time is set. Through its analysis of working time developments over the past decade in the EU15, Eurofound has discovered that in these countries the working week has grown somewhat shorter: average agreed weekly working hours have fallen from 38.6 hours to 37.9 hours – a fall of 1.8%. While the working week has also reduced in the 10 Member States that joined in 2004 (the NMS10), the reduction has been less: since 2003, average agreed weekly working hours declined by only 0.2 hours or 0.5%, down from 39.6 hours to 39.4. These collectively agreed reductions in working hours did not entail a loss of pay; however, towards the end of 2008, cuts in working hours with consequent cuts in pay became increasingly topical as the economic crisis deepened. Enforced reductions in working time – and usually pay – in the form of short-time work and temporary layoffs have been on the increase in many EU countries as companies seek to cope with falling demand.

Across the European Union, the longest working weeks (see note 1), worked by full-time employees in their main jobs, are found in Romania (41.8 hours), the Czech Republic (41.7 hours) and Latvia (41.7 hours). The shortest are in France (38.4 hours), Belgium (38.6 hours) and Ireland (38.9 hours). Only three of the EU15 countries have working weeks longer than the average for the entire EU27; by contrast, workers in 10 of the 12 new Member States work longer weeks than the EU27 average.

The report also compares the average collectively agreed entitlements for paid annual leave in the EU. It finds 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 26.5 days, with a substantial difference between the average in Sweden (33 days) and in Greece (23 days). Among the new EU Member States, the average is 21.4 days per year, with notable, though smaller, differences between the Czech Republic (25 days) and Estonia (20 days).

Download the full report

For further information, contact:

- Måns Mårtensson on email or telephone +353-1-204 3124 or mobile +353-876-593 507

- Camilla Galli da Bino on telephone: +353-1-204 3125 or email

- Laura Naegele on email

Note to the editor
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 policymaking with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. Eurofound was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975 and is located in Dublin, Ireland.

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(1) Harmonised Eurostat figures for average number of actual weekly hours of work in main job of full-time employees, based on its labour force survey for the third quarter of 2008.

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