Britons work longest hours in Europe


Britons work more than two weeks longer and enjoy less employment protection than anyone else in Europe, according to a new report published yesterday.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) annual Employment Outlook report said that the average Briton works 1,673 hours a year or 32 hours 10 minutes a week, some 100 hours more than the EU average.

British employees also have less protection against dismissal than any other workers in the developed world except those in the United States.

The report also warned that British workers may be paying the price for a long-hours culture in job insecurity and pressures on family life.

In contrast, French working hours have declined more than 20 per cent since 1970 to a mere 1,453 hours a year, the lowest figure in the developed world and almost a month less than their British colleagues.

But Britain's workaholic credentials are dented by the finding that the numbers of hours worked per adult have actually fallen by about seven per cent over the past 30 years, while they have soared by up to 20 per cent in the US, Canada and New Zealand.

However this steady fall is largely due to a growth in part-time jobs. Part-time workers made up 23.3 per cent of the UK labour force in 2003, compared with 16.6 per cent in the EU as a whole and 14.8 per cent in all OECD states.

The annual hours worked by Britons in 2003 also lag well behind the US (1,792), Australia (1,814) and Poland (1,956).

Topping the list, however, is South Korea, where those in full- or part-time work put in an extraordinary 2,390 hours a year on average - almost 46 hours a week - the equivalent of almost three months more eight-hour working days than their British counterparts.

The report predicted global falls in unemployment over the coming two years, but said that it expected 36 million people to remain jobless - almost seven per cent of the combined workforce of the OECD's 30 member- states.

It also called on all governments to balance flexibility in employment law with protection for workers, adding that efforts to drive more people into work may simply lead to the creation of short-term, insecure jobs.