The Strategist

UK Trades Union Congress: Shorter working day means better productivity

04/18/2019 - 08:43

The largest British trade union association Trades Union Congress (TUC) has released a study on the ratio of working hours and productivity in 10 most developed EU countries. The union experts concluded that workers in Denmark and the Netherlands are the most productive. The longest working day and the lowest labor productivity was registered in the UK and Austria.

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The TUC, which unites 49 specialized unions with a total membership of 5.5 million of people, analyzed official data from Eurostat and the OECD on average working hours in 10 EU countries with the most developed economies and labor productivity. The experts then drew a link between these two indicators. The British researchers took the OECD data on productivity by countries, taking the UK as a reference point with a conditional indicator of 100. Thus, countries with labor productivity lower than in Britain were ranked below 100, and those with the greater productivity were above 100.

The TUC concluded that the highest labor productivity is observed in developed EU countries with the shortest working day.

A longer working day indicates lower productivity. Denmark ranked first in the TUC rating. There, the average workweek in 2018 was the shortest - only 37.7 hours, while the labor productivity index was 123.5. Of these EU countries, this index is higher only in Ireland (162.7), but the working week is longer there (an average of 39.4 hours).

At the bottom of the ranking were Austria and the United Kingdom, where the longest working weeks were found (41.2 hours and 42 hours, respectively) with relatively low labor productivity (111.4 and 100, respectively). In addition, the TUC considered that the average employee, for example in Germany, works 1.8 hours less per week than the British one, but is 14.6% more productive. And the Danes, who work four weeks less than the British, are 23.5% more productive.

On average, in 28 EU countries, the working week in 2018 was 40.2 hours with a productivity indicator of 91.4.

In this regard, the TUC believes that combination of a longer work week and low productivity "deprives workers of a normal personal life... Overworking, stress and exhaustion have become a new reality."
Secretary General of the trade union, Frances O'Grady, sharply criticized the "British culture of long working hours." She called for a change in the British labor system, noting that reducing working hours in other countries showed that it was good not only for employees, but also for productivity.

“As new technologies develop our economy, ordinary workers should also feel the benefits of this. And this means a shorter working day, more time for family and friends, decent wages for everyone,” Head of the trade union association said.