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Image: kerkezz/Adobe Stock
Image: kerkezz/Adobe Stock

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Workers in central and eastern EU have longer working hours and shorter leave entitlements

Workers in Member States that joined the European Union after 2004 have, on average, longer normal annual working time. Workers in these countries also generally have a lower amount of statutory minimum days of leave.

When accounting for annual leave and public holidays, a full-time worker in Estonia or Hungary, where collective bargaining plays an insignificant role in determining working hours, has the longest normal annual working time at 1,856 hours per year; whereas a worker in France has the shortest working time at 1,608 hours. The difference is the equivalent of more than six full-time working weeks.

Eurofound’s recent publication Working time in 2021-2022 analyses the most important changes in the regulation of working time in Europe during the period. Of these, the transposition of two European directives: the Work–life Balance Directive and the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive, were the most prominent. These changes created improved entitlements for workers regarding parental leave, paternity leave or carer's leave and flexible working schemes for parents and carers, as well as ensuring that information about when work will have to be done is provided in advance to workers.

In 2022, the average collectively agreed working week in the EU stood at 38.1 hours. Of the sectors analysed, agreed working hours were shortest in public administration, at around 37.7 hours, and longest in the retail sector, at 38.5 hours. The average collectively agreed paid annual leave entitlement stood at 24.3 days in the EU, and was higher in the Member States that were part of the EU prior to its 2004 enlargement (EU14), at 25.3 days, than in the other Member States (EU13), at only 20.9 days.

Given the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work, findings reveal that the average usual weekly working hours of full-time employees fell between 2019 and 2022 in 19 Member States. However, workers in Member States that joined the EU prior to 2004 worked, on average, almost one hour less than those that joined in or after 2004, a difference that has remained constant for more than a decade.




James Higgins

James Higgins

Press contact Communication Officer +353-1-204-3100
Måns Mårtensson

Måns Mårtensson

Press contact Media & Promotion Manager Media relations, marketing and promotion +353-1-204 3124

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Eurofound, a tripartite European Union Agency, provides knowledge to assist in the development of social, employment and work-related policies

Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions) is a tripartite EU body, whose mission is to provide knowledge to assist in the development of better social, employment and work-related policies.

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