Widespread use of short-time work reduces gap between agreed and actual working time in the EU

Across the 27 EU Member States, the average agreed weekly hours rose very
slightly from 38.6 in 2008 to 38.7 in 2009, according to the annual report on
working time developments and trends from Eurofound's European Industrial
Relations Observatory (EIRO). While agreed working time remains stable, and has
done so since almost a decade, the widespread use of short-time work across EU
in 2009 has caused a downward tendency of actual working hours. Working time
differences between all EU Member States remain large.

The annual report on working time developments shows that collective bargaining
still plays an important role in determining the duration of working time in
most EU countries, though to a lesser or sometimes negligible extent in some of
the new Member States. The most prominent working time issue in 2009 was the
use of short-time work as a means of responding to falling demand during the
recession and preventing redundancies. Short-time work was used extensively in
most countries, and was an issue for collective bargaining in many cases.

In 2009, actual weekly hours worked by full-time employees were higher than the
average normal collectively agreed working week in 20 of the 28 countries. In
the EU27, average actual weekly hours stood at 39.3 in 2009, compared with the
average collectively agreed weekly working time of 38.7 hours. The average in
the EU15 stood at 37.9 hours in 2009 - the same as in 2008 - while the average
in the NMS rose very slightly from 39.5 hours in 2008 to 39.6 hours in 2009.
The gap between the EU15 and the NMS thus widened a little to 1.7 hours, or

Still, actual working time averages across each of the EU27, EU15 and NMS
groups of countries all fell by 0.3 hours. Average actual hours fell in 21 of
the 28 countries, most steeply in Ireland and Austria. This downward tendency
meant that the average gap between agreed and actual hours narrowed between
2008 and 2009, which the research attributes to the widespread use of
short-time working in many countries. Actual weekly hours worked by male
full-time employees in their main jobs exceeded those of their female
counterparts in all countries considered.

Overall, the EU's longest hours are in Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania,
Poland and Romania, while the shortest are in France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany
and Italy. Average annual hours in Hungary are 261 hours higher, or nearly 17%
more, than those in France - the equivalent of around 6.5 working weeks in

An important factor in the overall duration of working time is the amount of
paid annual leave to which workers are entitled. The combined total of agreed
annual leave and public holidays varied in the EU from 40.5 days in Germany to
28 days in Hungary - a difference of around 45% or two and a half working
weeks. Workers in Denmark, Italy and Austria also enjoy generous paid leave
entitlements, while the situation is quite the opposite for workers in
Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. The average duration for paid
leave in the EU 27 was 33.7 days - 35.3 days in the EU 15 and 31.6 days in the
NMS. The number of public holidays (excluding those falling on Sundays) varied
in 2009 from 14 in Cyprus and Spain to six in the Netherlands. The average
figure for the EU 27 was 10.5 public holidays, with the NMS having slightly
more on average (10.7) than the EU 15 (10.3).

More info - Source: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living andWorking Conditions