European workers want more job certainty: Working time - Q4 2014 (EurWORK topical update)

An increasing number of European workers have part-time jobs or non-standard types of work, such as the zero-hours employment contracts that have become common in the UK. Yet most European workers with temporary contracts would like permanent jobs, and one third of people working part time would like a full-time job. According to Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) 2010, 14% of workers in the EU would like to work more hours. This article presents some of the most interesting developments and research findings on involuntary part-time employment and non-standard work in EU Member States during the forth quarter of 2014.

Rise in non-standard work

According to the 2013 European Labour Force Survey, 29% of part-time workers had non-standard types of work because they could not find a full-time job. Since the start of the economic crisis in 2008, involuntary part-time working has increased mainly in southern Member States. For example, in Spain, the share of workers who work part time involuntarily has increased by 27 percentage points by 2013. The share of workers with temporary contracts who could not find permanent work also increased during the same period by 2.3 percentage points to 62% in 2013.

Lack of permanent jobs

On 9 December 2014, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the UK published research on non-standard working based on analysis of the 2013 European Labour Force Survey. Some 50% of workers aged 20–24 (and 58% of those aged 25–29) on zero-hours contracts said they were doing temporary work only because they could not find a permanent job. UK employers say that zero-hours contracts offer valuable experience and can act as a route to permanent employment, but the TUC study argues that these forms of work are increasingly a trap from which it is difficult to escape.

Data from the Central Statistical Office of Hungary also suggest that a significant number of those in part-time employment, around 90,600, want to work more hours (in Hungarian, 328 KB PDF). This is approximately 2% of all those in employment.

In Finland, according to the 2014 Working Conditions Barometer conducted by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) among its members and published in December 2014, 25% of SAK members would like to work more hours (in Finnish). This share has increased by 11 percentage points from 2009 to 2014. This reflects the large share of employees represented by SAK who are in involuntary part-time work. Some 50% of SAK members who are now in part-time employment would like to work full time.

Finally, in Poland, a national survey was carried out by TNS Poland in late October 2014 based on a sample of 500 working people aged 18 years and above. Its findings suggest that a majority of Poles would agree to work on Saturdays (in Polish), because they see it as a chance to earn additional income. Average weekly working hours are high in Poland compared with some other EU countries, but a relatively small proportion of the workforce work on Saturdays or Sundays.

Commentary

Increasing numbers of workers in Europe dislike the type of employment contract they have or are dissatisfied with the number of hours they work. Their main concerns are job insecurity, poorer career prospects or not enough income.

Attempts are made to limit discrimination against workers who have part-time and temporary contracts. Possible abuses, such as the continual renewal of fixed-term contracts rather than the offer of a permanent contract, are regulated by instruments such as the EU Framework Agreements between Europe’s employers and trade unions, and certain EU directives. However, many workers in part-time and temporary jobs would rather have full-time permanent jobs if these were available.

There seems to be some scope for an increase in the number of employees working unsocial hours, for example on Saturdays. However, policymakers would have to ask whether this would represent an additional threat to workers' work–life balance or an opportunity for them to increase their living standards.

About this article

This article is based mainly on contributions from Eurofound’s network of European correspondents. Further resources on the topic of working time can be obtained from Eurofound's European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS 2010) and the European Labour Force Survey (LFS).

For further information, contact Oscar Vargas: ova@eurofound.europa.eu

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