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The French still work (much) less than other Europeans

This is a specificity, which is now worrying.

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The French still work (much) less than other Europeans

This is a specificity, which is now worrying. Over the course of a year, the French work significantly less than other Europeans. And this gap comparatively weakens the country. According to a study by the Rexecode institute, which is based on the Eurostat Labor Force Survey, only the Finns devote more time to their leisure activities. In 2022, the effective annual working time of full-time employees in France thus reached 1,668 hours, significantly less than the European average (1,792 hours) and 65 hours less than in Spain, 122 hours less than in Germany, 162 hours less than in Italy.

“The actual working hours of full-time employees in France have been lower than the European average and that of its main neighbors since the beginning of the 2000s. The gap has been fairly stable since 2005, except the gap with Germany , where the annual duration of effective work decreased between 2006 and 2019 while remaining well above the duration in France,” writes Olivier Redoules, director of studies at Rexecode.

All sectors of activity are affected, with greater sensitivity on the services side. “In Germany, the working hours of employees in the non-market services sector were much higher than in France (170 hours more) in 2022. This is the sector where the gap is the largest after the agriculture (201 hours more compared to France).”

The influence of the Aubry laws on the 35-hour week is indeed impressive: in 1999, the French worked around 1950 hours, in 2005 less than 1700. During the same period, other European states also reduced their working hours, but by much less abrupt manner. During these five years, Spain, for example, went from 2000 to 1900 hours.

For a long time, French leaders were able to pride themselves on making a different choice of society than their neighbors because the high productivity of employees compensated, in terms of wealth creation, for the low number of hours worked. This is unfortunately no longer the case: since Covid, productivity growth has collapsed in France, for reasons that economists struggle to fully understand. Since then, the extension of working hours has once again become a subject of political concern.

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