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Annie Hayes

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The UK has the longest work hours

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The Work Foundation, a left-leaning think tank has proclaimed the UK as the official ‘work horse’ of the European Union.

In the UK around 896,000 men and 492,000 women regularly work more than 60 hours per week. Just behind Ireland, the UK has the second highest proportion of men putting in more than 60 hours a week.

Fuelling this long hours’ culture is a growing obligation of ‘presenteeism’ whereby workers grin and bear longer hours because they feel it is expected, even when it is not productive.

Job type and industry plays a part. Across the EU men working as administrators, skilled manual or salespersons and women employed as legislators and skilled manual workers accrue the longest hours.

Men who work long hours are found in hotel and catering and transport and communications. For women, working in agriculture leads to putting in the most hours and only working in the hotel and catering sector comes close.

According to the findings, higher incomes don’t therefore necessarily correlate with longer hours.

“This study and its methodology has revealed some real food for thought,” commented Dr Mark Cowling, Chief Economist of the Work Foundation.

“Firstly, the fact that we are looking at Europe as a group of very different EU countries is fairly unique. Most studies of this type tend to compare the UK with the US and Japan, meaning that the long hours worked in the UK does not seem atypical. It is only when compared to Europe that the true extent of our working culture becomes apparent. And, while all of the theories go some way to explaining the prevalence of this culture, none fully explain it. There is obviously more work to be done!”

The Work Foundation say that in addition to the growth of ‘presenteeism’ long hours may also be a result of workers on fixed contracts attempting to migrate to permanent contracts, social contagion and the general rewards of hard work.

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Annie Hayes

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