Jobs and the Future of Work

This country works the longest hours in Europe

average-working-hours-europe-feature

They work an average 42.3 hours a week, compared with the Dutch, who work 30.3. Image: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Rob Smith
Writer, Forum Agenda
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In Greece, people work longer days than anywhere else in the European Union, clocking up on average 42.3 hours per week, according to Eurostat.

average-working-hours-for-European-countries
Image: Eurostat

According to this EU data, which combines full and part-time employment hours, the Greek working week is easily the longest in the EU, with second-placed Bulgaria racking up 40.8 hours per week. Poland is just behind, with people working 40.7 hours per week on average.

Various commentators have suggested Greeks work considerably longer hours than other EU countries because the threat of financial crisis hangs heavier over their heads than elsewhere in the bloc.

Writing in the Conversation last year, academic Vasilios Theoharakis said: “After eight torturous years in crisis, employed Greeks work long and hard with very little to show for it in their take-home pay.”

working-hours-longest-shortes-europe
Image: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

At the other end of the scale, the data shows that the Dutch, famous for having the best work-life balance of all OECD countries, have the shortest week, clocking in for an average of just 30.3 hours. Denmark and Norway also have relatively short weeks, with staff working 32.9 and 33.8 hours respectively.

Full-time average working hours in Europe

However, when only full-time employment is taken into account, a slightly different picture emerges. While Greeks still average long hours, working 41.2 hours per week, it is the United Kingdom that has the longest working week.

average-number-working-hours-european-nations
Image: Eurostat

Employees in the UK were found to work 42.3 hours per week on average, Eurostat data shows. Next is Cyprus, with staff in full-time employment working 41.7 hours per week.

While in this data set the Netherlands averages 39 hours per week, it’s still below the EU average of 40.3 hours.

Full-time employees in Denmark and Norway also have relatively short working weeks, with Norwegians working 38.5 hours per week on average, and Danes working 37.8 hours, the least of any EU member state.

Long hours in Turkey and Mexico

When countries outside of the EU are considered, Turkey, which straddles south-east Europe and western Asia, has the longest working week, clocking up a staggering 49.4 hours per week on average. Full-time employees in Iceland meanwhile, work 44.4 hours per week on average. (Although, when combined with data for part-time workers, this figure drops to 39.3 hours overall.)

Further afield, data from the OECD, whose 35 members include much of the developed world and some developing nations, shows Mexicans spend 2,255 hours at work per year on average, which is the equivalent of around 43 hours per week.

Image: OECD

As with the Eurostat data, the OECD found Greeks work the longest hours in the EU, at an average of 2,035 per year.

However, working longer hours doesn’t necessarily result in greater productivity. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. So it might not come as a surprise to hear that the OECD found that in Germany, which has a reputation for high productivity, people worked the lowest number of hours, averaging 1,363 hours per year.

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Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkGeographies in DepthEducation and Skills
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