Overtime hours decreasing but still high

A report published by the General Workers’ Union (UGT) shows that the average number of hours worked each week by employees in Spain in 2008 was 38.5, compared to 38.4 in 2000. The union also says that 45 million hours of overtime were worked in 2010, almost half of which were unpaid. While the total number of extra hours worked has decreased during the last two years, overtime has actually increased in smaller companies, and its widespread use may be blocking the creation of new jobs.


The General Workers’ Union (UGT) has published a report on the evolution of working time (in Spanish, 720Kb PDF) and extra working time among Spain’s workforce. The report is based on data provided by the Survey on Active Population (EPA) collated by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) on a quarterly basis (yearly averages are also available), and on data produced by Confederate Executive Commission (CEC) of the UGT.

Evolution of working time

The report concludes that:

  • The average number of worked hours per week in Spain was 38.4 in 2000. In 2008, the average had risen slightly to 38.5 hours;
  • Meanwhile, the average number of worked hours per week across Europe as a whole was 38.3 in 2000 and had dropped to 37.2 by 2008;
  • Analysed by gender, in 2000 the average number of hours worked per week among men was 40.3, rising to 41.2 in 2008. For women, the average number of hours worked per week in 2000 was 35.2, decreasing to 34.7 by 2008.
Table 1: Average number of hours worked per week, EU and Spain, 2000–2008
  2000 2008



EU average








Source: Report on the evolution of working time, UGT and CEC; Based on data from the EPA.

Extra-time work

Overtime work can be defined as all worked hours which take place beyond the maximum duration of the usual (or agreed as regular and common) working time. In Spain, the incidence of overtime is relatively high, although there has been a slight decrease as a consequence of the global financial crisis. According to the data collated by the CEC and based on the EPA, the following conclusions can be drawn.

  • A total of 45 million extra-hours were worked during 2010. Moreover, 46% of the extra time worked was not compensated with either pay or time off in lieu.
  • From a gender perspective, men did 66.9% of the total overtime worked in 2010 and women worked the remaining 33%. However, women were less likely to be compensated for their extra work, 49% compared to 45% of men.
  • Although on average men do more extra-time work than women, in the 16–19 age group and among those workers over the age of 70, women do more overtime. Overtime done by men is particularly high among 30–60-year-old men. It is between the ages of 35–44 that family responsibilities are generally most pressing and those are normally assumed by women, leaving less space for extra hours working for an employer.
  • In the context of company size, the highest amount of overtime corresponds to companies with more than 250 workers, where overtime hours are nine times higher than those in micro-companies
  • Over time, the number of extra-hours worked in Spain has increased quite regularly between 2001 (55.2 million hours) and 2007 (up to a maximum of 64.4 million hours) and has decreased since 2007, largely as a result of the economic crisis. The report indicates that this reduction has been concentrated in companies with more than 50 employees, while in the smallest enterprises, overtime work has increased slightly.


According to the UGT, these data show on the one hand a certain stabilisation in the number of hours actually worked in Spain during the past decade. On the other hand, the data reflect a wide extension of a phenomenon which, in spite of the recent overall decrease in overtime due to the financial crisis, can still negatively affect a worker’s work-life balance and can also block employment creation at a time when new jobs are very much needed. Even where, for some, extra work could help boost household income, it has to be borne in mind that almost half of this extra work is not compensated.

Jessica Duran and Antonio Corral, IKEI Research




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