Irish people work longest hours in 'old' Europe

Ireland and Luxembourg have the longest working week among 'old' Europe with an average of 39 hours while the French have the shortest at 35, Eurofound's European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO ) said today.

The report, which looks at working time agreements set by collective bargaining, also found that average paid annual leave entitlement for European workers stood at 25.2 days across the EU in 2007.

Interestingly, Ireland comes close to the bottom of the league in terms of average hours worked in a week for civil servants with 37 hours compared to Austria with 40 hours and Germany with 39 hours but still aboveFrench civil servants who have an average working week of 35 hours and the British with 36.

There is still a substantial gap in working time between the former EU15 member states and the majority of the new EU Member States, according to the report. The average in the EU15 stood at 37.9 hours in 2007 (the same as in 2006 ), compared with 39.6 hours (also unchanged from 2006 ) in the NMS12, a difference of 1.7 hours, or 4.5 per cent.

The average collectively agreed normal working time, which covers some three-quarters of the labour force in Europe, has remained static overall in five of the former EU15 countries and Norway, and has fallen by less than an hour per week in three, the report says.

Over the nine-year period 1999-2007, average agreed normal weekly hours in the former EU15 countries and Norway fell only slightly from 38.6 to 37.8, a reduction of 2.1 per cent. Reductions of an hour or more have occurred in Luxembourg (1.0 hours ), the UK (1.1 hours ), Portugal (1.2 hours ), Sweden (2.5 hours ) and, most notably (driven by legislation ), France (4.0 hours ).

Since 2003, when EIRO started collecting data in the new member states, the 40-hour working week has remained the standard in the majority of these countries.

Exceptions to the 40-hour week are found in Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where agreed hours are closer to the EU15 average. Slovakia is the only country among the new EU Member States where considerable working hour reductions have been recorded over the past few years.

Across the European Union, the highest levels of actual weekly hours worked by full-time employees in their main jobs are found in Bulgaria, Romania and the UK, and the lowest in France, Italy and Denmark. Ten of the 12 new member states report actual working hours above the EU 27 average, compared with only three of the EU15.

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