Europe 61% of employed persons in the EU have no influence on their working hours

Higher than average flexibility in Germany

The majority of employed persons in the European Union (EU) has no say in how their working hours are organized. In 2019, 61% of the 15-74 year old workforce had working hours which were determined either by employers, customers, orders or legislation. Only 18 % of employed persons were completely free to decide when they start and finish work, 21 % had at least partial control over their work schedule.

The workforce in Germany was overall more flexible: only 50% had to adhere to specified working hours. 21% were completely free to organize their working hours, a further 28% at least to some extent.

More rigid working hours in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Hungary

In the EU, Bulgaria (80 %), Lithuania and Hungary (both 79 %) had the highest number of employed persons without any influence on their own working hours. The labour force was most flexible in Finland and Sweden: Only roughly a third of those employed (FI: 30%, SE: 35%) had fixed working hours there. The majority of persons employed had either partial or full control over their work schedule.

Accessible all hours? More widespread an issue in countries with flexible working hours

It is not always possible to strictly separate work and free time: in 2019, 41% of employed persons in the EU stated that they had been contacted by their employer or customers during their free time occasionally or on numerous occasions during the last two months. Germany was almost exactly in line with the EU average at 40%. In Finland, persons employed were most often contacted due to work during their free time (70%). The figures were also high in Sweden (62%) and Bulgaria (60%).

Two out of every three persons employed can easily take time off at short notice

In 2019, 66% of the EU workforce found it either very or fairly easy to take one or two hours off at short notice for personal or family matters (Germany: 63%). Similarly, the majority of EU persons in employment found it very or fairly easy to take one or two days off at short notice (55%). In Germany, the proportion was slightly lower at 53 %.

The results are taken from the 2019 ad-hoc module of the European Labour Force Survey on work organization and working time arrangements.

Publication date: 20.10.2020