Workers are happiest in traditional jobs with fixed working hours and least satisfied when they work long hours or are subject to the kind of so-called flexibility that makes it hard to balance private life and work.
For the fourth European working conditions survey, carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), 2,900 interviewers talked to almost 30,000 workers across 31 countries in Europe, producing an equivalent of 2½ years of interviews. They asked questions on issues such as well-being, job satisfaction, health concerns, working time, work organisation, equal opportunities and training. The full report will be released only on 15 February 2006, but key findings have already been published:
- 80% of workers say that they are happy with their work-life balance. However, among the workers working more than 48 hours per week, 44% say they are unhappy. This is by no means a marginal phenomenon: It concerns 28% of workers (employed and self-employed) throughout the 31 countries surveyed.
The workers who are happiest with the way they can balance work and private life are the ones who have a regular schedule of around 40 hours per week, with the same number of hours per day and with fixed starting and finishing times.
- Differences between genders in respect of payment, employment status and proportion of paid and unpaid work remain high. When unpaid work is taken into account, women – even those working only on a part-time basis – work longer hours than men. On average, women in full-time employment work 23 hours a week on top of their paid jobs, almost three times as long as full-time employed men. Men in part-time positions work around 25 hours a week less than women but get paid more than two hours more. Nevertheless, men – and in particular fathers in full-time employment – are more dissatisfied with their work-life balance than women. Almost half of all women work either in the education and health sector or in stores.
- The services sector is by far the largest in the EU and is still growing. It now employs two thirds of Europe’s workforce, as compared to 29% for manufacturing and just 5% for agriculture.