Working time in the European Union: Hungary

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 15 November 2009

László Neumann

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The aim is to obtain a fuller insight into differences in working time across the European Union and into developments in average hours worked both in total and by specific sections of the work force in different Member States over recent years. The concern is to investigate the factors underlying the changes that are observed in the survey data collected and, in particular, how terms and conditions of employment are changing in relation to working time. In general, data refers to the working time of those in employment.

The national contributions collects data inter alia from; firstly the EU Labour Force Survey which covers average hours worked by men and women employees both overall and in part-time and full-time jobs, the proportion of men and women in part-time jobs and the relative number of men and women employed under different arrangements as regards working time. Secondly, from the Fourth European Working Conditions Survey conducted by the European Foundation which covers other aspects of working time, including the number of days worked per week, evening, night and weekend working, the organisation of working time, the proportion of people with second jobs, the time spent commuting as well as on unpaid work.

These data are intended to form the basis of the replies to the questions asked but other relevant data have been used where available to supplement these.

Duration of work

Average weekly hours

Does the evidence from the above surveys, and other sources, indicate that, over the past five or ten years, employees are working fewer hours in your country?

The gradual reduction of statutory normal weekly working time from 40 to 38 hours was on the political agenda in the early 2000’s. Employer associations always opposed such claims made by trade unions, however, in 2002 the socialist-led government promised to support the trade unions’ claim (HU0212102N). In 2003 social partners failed to agree on reducing the working time (HU0307101N). As a last attempt, trade unions proposed to declare 24 December as a national holiday - the day on which practically most of the employees do not work anyway. This was on the government’s agenda in 2005, but finally no decision was made.

Is there evidence that any such decline in average working time is due more to compositional changes (e.g. more women entering the labour market and working part-time) than to an across-the-board reduction in hours?


Is there evidence that any fall in average hours over these periods may be due to a reduction in the number of people working very long hours – over 48 per week? Is there evidence that this has been due, to any extent, to the adoption of the EU working time Directive?

No. Although the Directive was adapted in 2001, its enforcement is doubtful.

Annual hours worked

To what extent is the notion of annual working time (calculated to take account of annual holidays, including public holidays, as well as average weekly hours) in common use in political or everyday discussion, or in social partner negotiations?

On the one hand, the issue of annual working days and hours is a technical one. The number of actual working days/hours depends on the coincidence of national and religious holidays set as calendar dates and week-end rest days. For example, in 2008 there will be 8 paid holidays, in 2007 there were 10. Therefore statisticians regularly publish figures of economic indices (for instance, industrial output) adjusted by the actual working days. On the other hand, in Hungary it is a long tradition to create longer holidays by swapping workdays and week-end rest days close to calendar holidays. Such “shifting” of working days is an annually recurring issue on the agenda of the National Interest Reconciliation Council (Országos Érdekegyeztető Tanács, OÉT). Following the agreement reached at OÉT, the workdays diary is promulgated by a ministerial decree. Of course, this is also a topic for everyday discussion.

Is there any evidence that the number of weeks worked per year has declined over the past five or ten years due to increased holidays, or time off for other purposes?

According to the EUROSTAT data, annual hours declined by 2.8% between 2000 and 2006. Although there were two noteworthy declines: 1.9 % and 1.6% between 2000 and 2001 and 2002-2003, respectively, there is no explanation for the changes apart from the usual fluctuation. Regulations on national holidays have not changed since 1999.

Days of work per week

Is the five-day week the predominant norm, as opposed to other patterns – four days, four and a half-days, five and a half-days, six days?

Yes, it is. In EWCS 71.3 % worked 39-41 hours.

Are there any obvious trends in this respect – for example, to reduce the number of days worked per week, but to increase the number of hours worked each day?

This pattern is getting more widespread in the export driven manufacturing sector. Here the employers’ vested interest is to run the machinery uninterrupted. This objective is traditionally met by three or four shifts; the latter ensures continuous work on the weekend too. In recent collective agreements the parties often replace this system by two twelve-hour shifts, which also reduces the travelling cost, born by the employer with running company buses for commuters. In this work schedule workers have three or four workdays and subsequently four or five free days, depending on whether the employer needs more hours to fulfil the workload.

Full-time and part-time working

Has part-time working grown relative to full-time working over the past five or ten years?

There is no considerable change, the share of part-timers is persistently very low (currently 4.3% of the employed) compared to Western European countries (Source: Labour Force Survey, 2007 3rd quarter.).

Are there major gender differences in the patterns of part-time working?

Currently 63% of part-timers are women, no major changes in the recent years.

Does the government encourage part-time working, either ‘passively’ (i.e. through the workings of social security or taxation rules) or ‘actively’ (e.g. in the sense of particular incentives being offered)?

Yes. The Employment Promotion Act, which entered into force on 1 March 1991, allows subsidising part-time employment, among other sorts of employment incentive measures. In this respect the Act was amended later, from 1 January 1997 subsidies could be given for the part-time employment of certain groups only. Nonetheless, the number of jobs created by these mallsubsidies was small; the number of recipients was 357 in 2004 and 586 in 2005.

As far as wage levies are concerned, the most important measures were related to the flat-rate part of health insurance contribution. From the beginning of 2005 onward it is paid proportionally to the actual of working time. Previously, it worked as a poll tax, i.e. employers paid the same amount for part-timers as for full-timers, which was an obvious disincentive to creating part-time jobs. Since 2004 employers have been totally exempted from paying the flat-rate health insurance contribution if they hire parents being on childcare leave, who are otherwise not allowed to work on full-time basis until they receive childcare allowance.

Collective bargaining

What are the main working time concerns and priorities of trade unions in collective bargaining?

Is part-time working generally viewed positively, or accepted reluctantly, by trade unions?

At sectoral and company level bargaining, the total weekly working time is rarely an issue. What is often agreed is whether the lunch break (more precisely the 20-minute break during the work-shift required by the Labour Code) accounts for working time or not (In the traditional work schedule this means whether the time span between the start and end of the work time is 8 hours, or 8 hours 20 minutes). There are a few state owned companies (for example, Hungarian State Railways (Magyar Államvasutak, MÁV)) where less than 40-hour normal weekly working time was introduced earlier. The current renegotiation of collective agreements raised the issue of weekly hours, which goes in line with pecuniary compensation for employees. Other important bargaining chips are the annual maximum of overtime and other non-standard forms of work (on call, posting, shift work, work on rest days and holidays, etc.), and the reference period for flexible work schedule (‘banking’) is often negotiated. All these working time issues are negotiated together with the wage supplements for the non-standard settings.

Work schedules

The working day and working week

To what extent does the standard ‘full-time’ working day – 08.00/09.00 to 17.00/18.00 - prevail as the norm?

According to the 2004 Labour Force Survey, 79.9% of men and 85.8% of women had working arrangement with fixed starting and ending time. The ‘standard full-time’ working day (08.00/09.00 to 17.00/18.00) excludes shift workers from ‘fixed start and end’ group: no shift work is characteristic for 67.9% of men and 74.7% of women.

To what extent does the ‘standard time norm’ of the working week (40 hour, 5 day week) prevail?

Based on the findings of the 2004 Labour Force Survey, at least 75.0% of men and 82.4% of women do not work on the week-end.

Non-standard work arrangements

To what extent are non-standard working time arrangements – evening, night and week-end work - mainly limited to those sectors of the economy where it is difficult to avoid – e.g. shift working in continuous process plants or lunch-time and evening work in restaurants?

In manufacturing shift work or continuous work schedules (including night work and week-end work) are common. The Labour Force Survey data on evening, night and week-end work in manufacturing is relatively low (27.2%).

Is there a tendency for non-standard schedules to enter into other areas of the economy, where it may not be strictly necessary, but where it may have attractions – for employers wishing to make more intensive use of their plant, equipment and other facilities, and for workers wishing to attain a better work-life balance or a more convenient means of taking care of children?

To what extent are weekend working and other non-standard working arrangements the result of seasonal work (such as in tourism)?

The Labour Force Survey data on evening, night and week-end work in hotels and restaurants is 50.5%. For the retail and repair sector, the same data reveals lower percentage: 24.4% only. Yet, the Trade Union of Commercial Employees (Kereskedelmi Alkalmazottak Szakszervezere, KASZ) was the only sectoral union which has launched several campaigns against week-end shop opening hours in shopping malls since the mid-nineties.

Shift working

How important is regular shift working (as opposed to occasional shifts to cope with increased temporary demand) in your country?

Is shift-working predominantly carried out in specific sectors, and is there any tendency for it to decline (for example as a result of reducing capacity in traditional sectors) or to increase (as employers everywhere seek to make more intensive use of capital investments)?

What kinds of shift systems dominate – regular mornings, afternoon or nights or mixed patterns?

In the manufacturing sector shift work is common, continuous work schedules (including night work and week-end work) tend to replace the traditional morning, afternoon or night shifts system. In seasonal industries the number of daily shifts may vary according to the fluctuating workload. The EWCS found that 20.7% count themselves as shift workers.

Organisation of working time

Flexibility of working time

How far do individual workers have influence over their own working time arrangements – for example over the time they start and end work?

It is relatively frequent in non-manual jobs. However, the Labour Force Survey data shows low penetration (8.4% for all employees, 12.4% for non-manual occupations) of staggered hours.

To what extent is it possibleto ‘bank’ hours or days of work – for example to work extra hours for a number of days in order to take day(s) off?

The Labour Force Survey data show extremely low rate (2.4%) of ‘working time banking’ compared to the everyday experiences. This bias is probably due to the wording of questionnaire, which stresses ‘positive’ flexibility. In collective agreements reference period for flexible work schedule (‘banking’) is often negotiated. For instance, of the company collective agreements (re)negotiated in 2002, 41% applied a reference period longer than the default length set by the Labour Code and 32% introduced annualised hours (HU0401103F).

To what extent can workers determine their own work schedules - in other words, work when they like, so long as the work is delivered on time?

In the Labour Force survey 3.4% of the employees answered positively. However, another 2.2% said that it depends on individual agreement, which, according to anecdotal evidences, is more common at Hungarian workplaces.

From an employee perspective, can a distinction be drawn between ‘positive’ flexibility concerning working time (i.e. arrangements that suit them) and ‘negative’ flexibility (arrangements that suit their employers), or are most arrangements by mutual consent?

Case studies showed that flexibility through working time banking was introduced by employers in order to save labour costs when they had to meet requirements of flexible production. In other words, the actual schedule is mainly adjusted to the labour force requirement of the firm, in most cases employees’ need are not taken into account. The only possibility for employees is to agree individually (often informally) with managers to reach a suitable arrangement occasionally.

Is there evidence that people with higher ranking, better paid jobs are more likely to have greater flexibility regarding their working time arrangements than those with lower ranking/less well paid jobs?

Yes, the share of employees who are in the position to ‘determine their own work schedule’ is the highest among managers (Labour Force Survey).

Are there major differences between non-manual workers and manual workers in terms of such flexibility?

Yes, the share of employees who are in the position to ‘determine their own work schedule’ is the lower among manual workers (Labour Force Survey).

Are there major differences between public sector and private sector workers in terms of such flexibility?

No evidence for significant differences.

Are any major gender differences – for example, are men and women seen to be subject to more or less ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ flexibility?

No evidence for significant differences.

Other working time issues

Multiple job holding

How widespread is the practice of multiple job holding in your country?

Altogether 7.5% of respondents in the EWCS answered that they had regular, occasional or seasonal second jobs. LFS data is at a similarly low level, but the answers are probably biased, as people tend not to report undeclared jobs, being afraid of tax authorities. It is worth to note that the Labour Code allows actual weekly working time up to 48 hours for each job, so that the European Directive is not an effective control for limiting multiple job holding.

Are second or third jobs primarily seen as supplementary sources of income relative to a main job, or are all the different jobs seen as equally valid?

They are seen as a supplementary source, provided that the person has a demanding main job. Otherwise, in case of people considered ‘inactive’ from a statistical point of view, fragile casual jobs, undeclared work may also be performed for different employers. In historical perspective, second jobs were far more tolerated by employers in the state socialist period, while in the post socialist era employers introduced various HRM techniques to tackle multiple job holding.

Commuting time

How much time does commuting typically add to the average ‘working day’ (in the sense of time spent away from home)?

In EWCS, the mean value is 45.9 minutes, however the standard deviation is relatively high (43.3%).

Is commuting commonplace for everybody, or does the time spent vary in any systematic way – such as according to the type of job, or whether people live in urban or rural areas?

It varies, depending on the quality of public transport or company bus services. In remote, rural areas underdeveloped public transport is a serious hurdle in finding employment, however, these unemployed are in fact not commuters and are not included in the survey.

Is the development of teleworking (full-time or part-time) seen as a viable and attractive alternative to commuting?


Unpaid working hours (of those in work)

Is there much debate about the impact of time spent on unpaid work in the home, as well as time spent on paid work, on work-life balance, especially between men and women?

No, it is not a highlighted issue in everyday discourse, it occasionally emerges in policy debates.

Are there pressures for non-paid work to be more recognised, and for the work involved to be shared more evenly between partners?


Composite indicators of weekly working hours

Composite indicators of weekly working hours have been developed for full-time and part-time workers, both male and female, which include time spent in unpaid as well as paid work and time spent commuting. What do you see as the most significant implications of these indicators so far as your country is concerned?

It would be interesting to see a systematic comparison with domestic survey findings (LFS, time budget, unpaid work, public transport data on commuting time, etc.) Nonetheless, it is difficult to interpret daily female working time longer than 24 hours (See Sheet 22 of EWCS tables.).

László Neumann, Institute for Political Science, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

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