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European Company Survey 2009

The European Company Survey (ECS) is carried out every four years. The 2009 survey was the second instance and covered 30 countries: the 27 Member states, Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

About the survey

The ECS 2009 focused on two topics in the field of company policies that are widely debated in the EU: flexibility practices and employee participation at the workplace. The survey covered:

  • different forms of working time flexibility – flexitime and working time account systems, part-time work, overtime work and work at unusual hours 
  • the application of non-permanent employment contracts – external flexibility
  • aspects of wage flexibility as well as modes of enhancing the employability of staff for different tasks – functional flexibility

The survey investigated the general structures and practices of company-level employee representation in Europe, shedding light on the different channels of representation, on available resources and on the impact of social dialogue on company decisions in different areas.


The findings provide a unique insight into the flexibility strategies of companies and into workplace social dialogue structures and practices. The first results were published in December 2009. The overview report was published on 1 March 2010.


Working time flexibility

  • More than half (56%) of companies in Europe offer some kind of flexitime arrangements
  • About two-thirds of the establishments surveyed offer its employees employment on a part-time basis
  • During the 12 months prior to the survey, workload peaks were handled by overtime work for its employees in just over two thirds (68%) of establishments. Overtime work is relatively evenly spread across the different sectors of economic activity
  • Work at non-standard hours remains at a stable level and is used by considerably fewer establishments than other forms of working time flexibility. In about 44% of the establishments within the EU, there are employees who regularly have to work at unusual hours, mostly on Saturdays (40%).

Human resources practices

  • Having staff with a fixed-term employment contract has become a common occurrence in more than half (54%) of all establishments covered by the ECS 2009
  • Slightly more than every fifth establishment employed temporary agency workers in the 12 months preceding the survey interview
  • In the EU, slightly more than four out of five establishments indicate that teamwork is an important characteristic of work organisation
  • Three out of four establishments check the need for further training in a systematic way. However, this does not mean that further training takes place

Variable pay

  • Across the EU, a third of establishments with 10 or more employees use elements of pay that depend on individual performance. Slightly more than half (53%) of all employees are involved. Over half of the employee representatives (54%) broadly support these schemes, with wide differences between countries
  • According to the ECS data, 14% of all private establishments with 10 or more employees within the EU currently practise some form of profit-sharing scheme. The highest incidence by far is reported in France, where more than a third (35%) of all private companies are operating a profit-sharing scheme

Workplace social dialogue

  • Almost four out of ten companies (37%) in the survey reported an institutional form of employee representation, which covers more than 60% of the employees
  • More than two out of three workers in the EU are covered by a collective pay agreement: in the total economy, the figure is 69%, while it stands at 67% in the private sector alone
  • Employee representatives in Europe seem to be generally satisfied that a rather good cooperative culture of interaction exists between them and the management of establishments
  • European management is, in general, rather positive about the effect of social dialogue and employee representation at the workplace
  • Some 80% of the interviewed representatives claim that the employees support their work.

Company performance

  • An increase in labour productivity was reported by more than 20% of establishments in the EU
  • Just less than one third of all establishments show an increase in their workforce over the previous three year period (2005-2008), while less than one quarter of all establishments report a decrease in workforce numbers
  • Cyprus, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Belgium and Malta all report an excess of 50% of establishments citing a shortage of skilled staff.

Scope of survey

Following on from the first Eurofound establishment survey in 2004–2005, the ECS 2009 was carried out across the 27 EU Member States and in the candidate countries of Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. In more than 27,000 establishments with 10 or more employees of both the private and the public sectors, human resources managers and employee representatives – where available – were interviewed about flexibility measures applied at the establishment and the involvement of employee representatives in their set-up. 

Interviews were carried out in the spring of 2009. At that time, the current global economic crisis had already begun, although some countries and sectors were more affected than others. In all of the countries, fieldwork was carried out using computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI). Fieldwork in the countries was coordinated by TNS Opinion in Brussels, in cooperation with TNS Infratest Sozialforschung in Munich. 

For further information about the European Company Surveys, contact Sophia MacGoris.


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