Facts and prejudices about work

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Transport, 2nd from left and Vladimír Špidla, Member of the EC in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, 3rd from left, took part in the celebration of the joint agreement on Maritime Labour standards of the ILO. (EC Audiovisual Services).

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Transport, 2nd from left and Vladimír Špidla, Member of the EC in charge of Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, 3rd from left, took part in the celebration of the joint agreement on Maritime Labour standards of the ILO. (EC Audiovisual Services).

The European Union and more so the Eurozone countries change fast into service sector economies, increasingly favouring the transfer of the heavy production burden of industry and agriculture to the developing economies. This is not necessarily a negative development given that labour in services is generally less demanding, at least physically, and it is rather better paid. It runs however the risks of more unpredictable and faster changes of demand.  It means also that the Europeans clearly prefer services jobs from the more demanding labour in industry and agriculture and this is a quite natural human attitude.

The trend is getting more and more momentum and it is irreversible. According to Eurostat, the EU statistical service, “almost 70% of employed persons in the EU27 worked in the service sector in 2011, compared with 62% in 2000”.

The same source informs us that market services, such as trade, transportation, financial activities etc. accounted for 39% of persons employed in 2011, while mainly non-market services, such as public administration, education, health etc. accounted for 30%. The industry and construction sector accounted for 25% and agriculture for 5%.

Intra EU differences

Of course there are wide differences between the EU member states. The services sectors accounts for 43% of total employment in Romania and 85% in Luxembourg. Eurostat observes that there is a wide diversification between EU member states over sectoral employment distribution also.

For agriculture, the share varied from less than 2% of persons employed in Malta, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany to 29% in Romania, 13% in Poland and 12% in Greece.

For industry, the proportions ranged from 13 % in Luxembourg and 17% in the Netherlands to 38% in the Czech Republic and 37% in Slovakia. In the market services sector, the shares varied from 26% in Romania and 34% in Poland to 45% in Ireland and Cyprus. For mainly non-market services, the proportions ranged from 16 % in Romania and 22% in Bulgaria to 42% in Luxembourg and 38% in Denmark and the Netherlands.

There is a very interesting additional statistic offered in this  Eurostat announcement concerning the working hours of full-time employees in the various member states. Statistical reality contradicts effectively all the ‘ideological’ prejudices about labour loving and lazy nationals European nationals, accusing the Southerners for laziness and favouring the Northerners as hard workers.

Incidentally according to Eurostat weekly working hours for full-time employees ranged between 37.7 hours in Denmark to 42.2 hours in the United Kingdom. On average in the EU27, employees working full-time usually worked 40.4 hours a week in 2011, with women averaging 39.3 hours and men 41.1 hours. The longest weekly working hours for full-time employees were observed in the United Kingdom (42.2 hours), Austria (41.8), Cyprus and Portugal (both 41.1), and the shortest in Denmark (37.7), Ireland (38.4), Italy (38.8) and the Netherlands (39.0).

It is easily proved here that in every group there are key countries from both North and South. Clearly there is not such a thing a connection between working hours and geographical latitude.

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