Working time in the European Union: Lithuania

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

Inga Blažienė

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.

In fact, it is very difficult to assess some trends recorded by LFS or EWCS, as there are no special studies on working time in Lithuania. The main feature of working time in Lithuania is its extremely low flexibility. Accordingly, working time can be characterised as quite stable and traditional.

This national contribution on working time has been based on a questionnaire that has been made for all member states plus Norway. 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

We can say that the issue of working time/duration of work has been quite little explored in Lithuania; apart from the survey on the application of working time, as carried out by the Lithuanian Statistics (Lietuvos statistikos departamentas, STD) in 2004 and data provided by the Eurostat and European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), there are actually no other information sources in Lithuania enabling assessment of work time.

Average weekly hours

Lithuania could be attributed to the median in EU Member States by average weekly hours; both according to EU-LFS and EWCS data Lithuania is somewhere in the middle among the Member States by weekly working hours/hours usually worked per week in the main paid job. In the period from 2000 to 2006, average usual hours worked per week by employees in Lithuania did not reduce and remained on the same level in Lithuania in difference to the absolute majority of the EU27 Member States.

Though there have been no special surveys carried out in Lithuania with a view to assessing overtime work (sometimes even unpaid), according to expert analysis it should account for quite a significant part of working time of employees in Lithuania. This assumption is based on the fact that, in the environment of rapid economic growth and economic migration processes recorded in the latter few years, attempts have been made to compensate bad shortage of labour force in Lithuania, inter alia, with longer working hours. This statement is to a certain extent confirmed by EWCS data which shows that hours usually worked per week in the main paid job totalled 41 hours in Lithuania, while the law defines a maximum working week to be 40 hours.

According to the above mentioned STD’s survey, 4% of dependent employees worked overtime in Lithuania within the reference period. Employees in trade and transport, construction and manufacturing industries accounted for the longest overwork hours. Not all overtime work was duly paid for. According to expert analysis, the portion of overtime workers in Lithuania is presumably even bigger.

Here we may mention that in the report prepared for the European Foundation in 2006 ‘Attractive Workplace for All: A contribution to the Lisbon Strategy at company level. A feasibility study for Lithuania’ it was stressed, that ‘LFS experts themselves note that overtime is one of the most unreliable indicators in the LFS. According to experts, the Lithuanian population works many hours of overtime (this is evidenced by the regularly increasing number of claims received by the National Labour Inspectorate (Valstybinė darbo inspekcija, VDI) concerning not accounted (and often not paid) overtime)’.

Annual hours worked

In Lithuania, fundamental changes in annual hours worked came about in 2007, when amendments to the Labour Code (LC) came into force in relation to weekly rest days coinciding with statutory holidays. The amendment’s implementation increased the number of free working days by approximately three-four days per year. Before these amendments in the Labour Code, Lithuania was among the countries in EU27 with the highest average hours worked per year (1870 hours in 2006).

When the before-mentioned amendments to the LC were under consideration in 2006, the social partners (both trade unions and employers) at the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos tiršalė taryba, LRTT) opposed the idea of shifting weekly rest days coinciding with statutory holidays, but the social partners’ opinion were neglected and the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas, LRS) adopted the amendments to the LC. The main argument of the social partners to oppose the shifting of weekly rest days was the shortage of labour force in the Lithuanian labour market which should increase even more when the number of annual working days is reduced.

Days of work per week

Traditionally, a working week consists of five working days in Lithuania. Compared to other Member States, there are relatively fewer employees in Lithuania who usually work less or more than five days per week in their main paid job, and relatively more of them, as compared to the EU (~70% according to the EWCS), work five working days per week.

In this respect, the situation is quite stable, as it is conditioned by two counteractive factors. On the one hand, rapid economic growth and shortage of labour force encourage employers to pay more and employees to work more, while on the other hand, as the living standards are rising, more and more people prefer additional rest instead of additional income.

Full-time and part-time working

The rate between full-time and part-time working has basically remained the same for many years (see Table 1).

Table 1. Full-time and part-time employment in Lithuania in 2000-2006 (%)
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Full-time employment 89.8 90.1 89.2 90.5 91.6 92.9 90.1
Part-time employment 10.2 9.9 10.8 9.5 8.4 7.1 9.9

Source: STD

As we can see from the data in the Table above, part-time employment accounts for quite a small portion ranging around 10% in Lithuania. Though annual data for the year 2007 has not been submitted yet, we can judge preliminary that part-time employment shrank even more in Lithuania in 2007 as compared to 2006. As was repeatedly mentioned before, according to expert analysis, the main reasons impairing the growth of part-time employment in Lithuania are still a insufficient average wage level (in Lithuania, it is hardly possible in fact to subsist, maintain family, etc. in case of part-time work and part-wage) and insufficient knowledge and capacities in part-time employment management (it is often too complicated for employers to hire several part-time workers, accommodate their working schedules, etc. It is much easier to employ one full-time worker instead).

The share of part-time female workers accounts for the main difference between Lithuania and other Member States (where part-time employment level is quite higher) (see Table 2).

Table 2. Proportion of men and women employees working in part-time jobs in Lithuania and EU27 in 2006 (%)
  Men Women
Lithuania 4.6 8.6
EU27 6.8 31.2

Source: EU-Labour Force Survey

Traditionally, like in other CEE countries, Lithuanian women work a lot, and if they do – they work on a full-time basis.

The Government does not encourage part-time working – neither ‘passively’ nor ‘actively’: there are no special workings of social security or taxation rules or particular incentives for part-time employees in Lithuania.

Collective bargaining

Recent shortage of labour force makes employers look for alternative labour, i.e., efforts are often taken to liberalise regulation of working time, to prolong working days, etc. In their turn, trade unions in most cases oppose any incentives of liberalising working time, because, under conditions of extremely low incidence of collective bargaining and coverage by collective agreements, more liberal regulation of working time creates opportunities for employers’ abuse in terms of creating less favourable working conditions for employees.

Though, as it was mentioned above, part-time working is underused in Lithuania (particularly as regards female employment), the social partners at national or sectoral level are not discussing this problem at the point. At enterprise level, as it was mentioned before, employers are often not interested in employing part-time workers (this form of employment is often unattractive for employees, too).

Work schedules

As regards work schedules, same like in case of the duration of work, the STD, Eurostat and EWCS are the only sources of information about work schedules in Lithuania. There have been no special surveys carried out in Lithuania to explore the above-mentioned issue.

The working day and working week

As we have mentioned before, the prevalence of ‘full-time’ working day and ‘standard time norm’ of a working week is highly predominant in Lithuania. According to EWCS data, the mean of answers to the question ‘How many hours do you usually work per week in your main paid job’, as already mentioned, is 41 (being a little bit higher only for the self-employed – 43), while the share of employees working 5 days per week in Lithuania is higher than the EU27 average. The share of employees working 39-41 hours per week is almost by 20 percentage points higher than the EU27 average.

Non-standard work arrangements

On the average, non-standard working time arrangements – evening, night and weekend work – account for smaller shares in Lithuania compared to the average in the European Union (see Table 3).

Table 3. Share of employees never working under non-standard working time arrangements in Lithuania and other EU countries (%)
  Night work Evening work Saturday work Sunday work
Lithuania 81.7 56.1 47.5 67.0
All countries participated in EWCS 79.3 53.2 46.5 67.1

Source: EWCS

Though, as it was mentioned before, there have been no special surveys carried out in Lithuania to give grounds for objective assessment of the distribution of non-standard working time arrangements by sectors or groups of workers, expert evidence shows that under conditions of rapid economic growth in Lithuania non-standard working time arrangements are prevailing in certain economic activities (particularly in construction and trading businesses) even without any ‘difficulties to avoid’ such type of working. The main reason that such working time arrangements prevail is employers’ and employees’ strive to earn more – to gain more profits and to receive higher remuneration for work.

Unfortunately, the use of non-standard working time arrangements in Lithuania (both in those economic sectors where it is difficult to avoid such arrangements, and in other economic sectors) has hardly anything to do with better work-life balance or more convenient means of taking care of children. The main driving factor for these working time arrangements is higher profits (this particularly refers to the above-mentioned construction and trading sectors).

Seasonality for weekend working and other non-standard working arrangements could have some impact in Lithuania on the agricultural sector only.

Shift working

The prevalence of shift work in Lithuania is in the middle among other Member States: 19.4% of employees do shift work in Lithuania, as compared to the 18.0% average of all countries covered by the survey. Information on the types of shift work in Lithuania and other Member States is presented in the table below (see Table 4).

Table 4. Type of shift work (%) in Lithuania and other EU countries
  Daily split shifts Permanent shifts Alternating /rotating shifts Other Total
Lithuania 11,9 40,9 46,0 1,1 100
All countries participating in EWCS 5,8 35,9 53,6 4,7 100

Source: EWCS

As we can see from the data above, permanent shifts are predominating in Lithuania rather than alternating/rotating shifts. In addition, daily split shifts are twice as often in Lithuania as compared to other countries covered by the survey, while other types of shift work actually do not exist (or recorded incidence thereof is very low).

As there have been no special surveys carried out in Lithuania giving grounds, as it was mentioned before, to assess the distribution of shift working in more details, we can only presume that shift-working predominantly is carried out in specific sectors in manufacture, trading, etc. As employment has been severely dropping down in some traditional manufacture branches in Lithuania over the last several years (such as textile, etc.), it is quite probable that the prevalence of shift working have been decreasing in Lithuania, too.

There is no data in Lithuania on what kinds of shift systems dominate – regular mornings, afternoon or nights or mixed patterns.

Organisation of working time

Flexibility of working time

Rigidity is more characteristic to the organisation of working time in Lithuania than flexibility. This is also confirmed by the EWCS data: the share of employees having influence over their own working time arrangements is significantly lower in Lithuania compared to other Member States (see Table 5).

Table 5. Distribution of employees (%) in Lithuania and other EU countries by the settlement of their working time arrangements
  Time is set by the company with no possibility for changes Employee can choose between several fixed working schedules Employee can adapt his/her working hours within certain limits Working hours are entirely determined by employee Total
Lithuania 81,7 3,5 11,5 3,3 100
All countries participated in EWCS 67,9 7,5 18,2 6,4 100

Source: EWCS

As we have mentioned above, application of more flexible working time is restricted in Lithuania by the shortage of organisational and administrative capacities necessary in order to organise this type of employment.

As far as it is known to the authors of this report, the principle of banking hours or days of work is not applied in Lithuania unless this is individually agreed by the employee and employer in some exceptional cases.

As demonstrated by the survey carried out in 2006, ‘Attractive Workplace for All […] A feasibility study for Lithuania’, ‘flexible working time in most cases is applied for top-level professionals and managers when the very nature of their work requires flexible working time. Ordinary workers and experts are normally required to adhere strictly to the working time order. Therefore, in Lithuanian reality flexible working time is often understood rather as a certain privilege than a legitimate procedure’.

If we compare the public sector and the private sector, we can say that work flexibility (both in its positive and negative senses) is generally higher in the private sector. As for lower-skilled workers, we can say that their working time is less flexible, in the negative sense too, i.e., they work less overtime, but their wages are less dependent on their efforts, too.

Speaking about higher-skilled employees, such as officers and managers in the public sector, we can say that they are in a worse situation in terms of flexible working time, as compared to private sector employees, because they, as a rule, can influence their working time arrangements less. It was as late as in 2007 when the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, for the first time in Lithuania, passed a decree ‘On the establishment of working hours in state and municipal enterprises, agencies and organisation’, that provided for an opportunity for state and municipal institutions performing public administration functions to open from 7.30 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. and to close from 4.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. respectively. The Decree also provided for an opportunity to some units of the institution to have different opening and closing hours than in the institution itself. The Decree allowed making individual work schedules for some employees and public servants by the agreement of the parties, in derogation from the requirements for the opening, closing and length of working hours per day, as fixed in the mentioned Decree. The introduction of such ‘flexible’ rules in the public sector was in many aspects assessed as innovation providing with more flexibility in the particularly rigid public sector.

In general, we can not state any major gender differences regarding flexibility of working time in Lithuania unless this relates to the gender distribution by sectors/occupations (for example, there are more male managers in the private sector, etc.).

Other working time issues

Multiple job holding

According to the STD data, roughly 6% of Lithuanian employees hold multiple jobs. If this share of employees was shrinking from 2000 till 2004, in the latter years, when the need for labour force and its value have impressively increased, more and more employees have been taking extra jobs in addition to their main jobs (see Table 6).

Table 6. Share of employed having more than one job in Lithuaniain 2000-2006 (%)
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Share of employed 6,8 6,6 6,5 6,2 5,1 5,7 6,0

Source: STD LFS

According to the EWCS, as many as 93.5% Lithuanian employees said that they did not hold second jobs (the average for other countries participating in the EWCS was 91.7%). In Lithuania second jobs are hold on a regular basis more often than in other participating countries.

Though there have been no special surveys carried out in Lithuania about multiple jobs holding, we can say that second or third jobs are primarily seen as supplementary sources of income relative to a main job. We come to this conclusion having in mind the fact that the number of part-time job vacancies is relatively low in Lithuania in general, so in most cases employees hold their main jobs plus extra job as a supplementary source of income.

Commuting time

The only source of information about commuting time in Lithuania is the EWCS. According to the EWCS, Lithuanian employees normally spend 41.2 minutes per day travelling from home to work and back. Compared to other countries covered by the EWCS, this is by 9.4 minutes more compared to the countries where the travelling time from home to work and back is the lowest (Austria) and by 12.6 minutes less compared to Romania.

On the one hand, moderate travelling time can be explained by relatively small cities, towns and regions as well as low prevalence of shuttle migration (when employees go to work from other cities/towns or regions). On the other hand, travelling time could be lower in Lithuania if more flexible working time arrangements would be applied.

Development of teleworking (full-time or part-time), as a viable and attractive alternative to commuting, is not discussed in Lithuania.

Unpaid working hours (of those in work)

In Lithuania, both men and women spent relatively very little time for:

  • caring for and educating children;

  • cooking and housework;

  • caring for elderly/disabled relatives.

Lithuania is in the top by the time spent for unpaid work among other countries participating in the EWCS. According to the EWCS, men spend 4.9 hours for unpaid work in Lithuania and women spend 16.0 hours. This situation is basically determined by the labour market - women employment rate is extremely high in Lithuania, while part-time employment prevalence is low. According to expert analysis, such a low number of hours spent for unpaid work could also be determined by long working hours in paid jobs. Unfortunately, the latter are often not reflected in official statistics.

There is not much debate in Lithuania about the impact of time spent on unpaid work at home, as well as time spent on paid work, on work-life balance, especially between men and women, as well as there almost are no pressures for non-paid work to be more recognised, and for the work involved to be shared more evenly between partners. Discussions arising in public are often of a momentary nature only and are in most cases initiated by the leaders of feminist movement. However, these issues are not at all debated on wider levels of the society, particularly in the context of labour market, working conditions, social security and guarantees.

Composite indicators of weekly working hours

If we add all hours for paid and unpaid work together, Lithuania would be somewhere in the middle among all other countries covered by the EWCS. It is consistent that the most paid and unpaid working hours per week would be demonstrated in less economically developed countries, such as Turkey, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, etc., while France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland would show the least composite weekly hours. Yet, it is difficult to explain the situation in Lithuania without special surveys. Why is so little time spent for caring for and educating children, for cooking and housework in a relatively economically weaker country with little paid working hours on the average? It would be quite logical to say (also bearing in mind extremely urgent problem of labour force shortage and ensuing rapid wage growth within the latter years) that Lithuanian employees in fact work longer than is reflected in the surveys. On the other hand, ‘median’ paid working time and quite low unpaid working time could be explained by fairly high level of labour force employment (March 2008) and extremely low prevalence of part-time working, as well as quite accessible child care services.

Inga Blažienė, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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