UK works longer hours than EU

Of the 168 hours in any week, the average person works (on tasks she needs to be paid for) around 40 hours of that time

An average worker’s hourly breakdown per week is guestimated to be 30% work-related/ 70% home related viz:

  • 40 (24%) = Work
  • 10 (6%) = Commute to/ from work
  • 60 (35%) = Home – Sleep
  • 58 (35%) = Home – Leisure


However, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical arm, Britons work more hours than anyone else in Europe

The only other major economy where people work more than 40 hours a week is Germany

Over all major EU economies, Eurostat claim the average hours worked per individual per week is:

  • 42.3 Britain
  • 40.4 Germany
  • 39.9 Spain
  • 39.2 Belgium
  • 39.0 Netherlands
  • 39.0 France
  • 38.8 Italy


They also say British workers have maintained their working hours over the years since the recession struck in 2008, against a decline in most other major EU economies

First reactions to such data are:

  • All the above totals, except the UK’s, seem so close to be little different
  • One questions the basis of such statistics given the broad mix of employee jobs and their contracts – paid by the hour, weekly or salaried – repetitive or varied – brawn or brain inputs required
  • Such totals are irrelevant to brainworkers, managers and many salaried staff who don’t switch on at 0900 and off at 1700 each workday but often take their work and problems home and dwell on them, even when asleep
  • Keynes’s prediction that we’d all be working just 15 hours per week may have come true already for many workers – but they pad their productive hours with necessary relaxation time to refresh their brawn and/ or brain cells


Nevertheless, one wonders why Britain tops such a table:

  • We know France has been bound by legislation limiting their official working week since the 1990s – and this has widespread support despite current attempts by President Macron at reform
  • We also know the EU has imposed a Working Time Directive that says no-one should work more than 48 hours per week, much to the irritation of the UK
  • But they provide no obvious answer


Maybe UK employees need more recovery time whilst at work?

All one can say is there’s clearly plenty of work on offer in the UK, and plenty of people willing to input the hours apparently needed to complete it – and the latter is no doubt influenced by average UK wages rising so little over the last decade as profits made were channelled more to capital owners’ pockets than the workers who produced them

So let economist Ruth Lea have the last word here: “Britain has a very flexible labour market, with a very good record of finding ways for people to work part-time – the hours that people work are almost entirely voluntary and, for the most part, people do the hours they want to


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