UK parents no longer work the longest hours in EU

24 Mar 2016

Fathers in the UK are no longer working the longest hours in Europe, according to a study of 17 countries published today by NatCen Social Research, Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU, UCL) and the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Workers in the UK once had the longest week in the EU, but a decline since 2001 in average working hours among fathers means this is no longer the case. In 2001, fathers in the UK worked an average of 46.1 hours per week. By 2013, this had decreased to 43 hours (including part-time workers).

Meanwhile, the average working week for all British mothers, including those who work part-time, has increased from 26.8 to 29.1 hours in the same time period.

In 2013, the highest average weekly full-time working hours were found in Greece for both fathers (46 hours) and mothers (over 41 hours). UK fathers working full-time had the second longest hours on average (44.6), whereas full-time mothers worked on average 39.5 hours per week.

Three in ten UK fathers regularly work over 48 hours per week, down from 4 in 10 in 2001. Greece now leads the EU in long working hours, with 40% of fathers working over 48 hours per week.

Changing patterns of work

The research also found significant shifts in the working patterns of parents across Europe since the recession:

  • The proportion of UK households where both parents work full time increased from 26.4% in 2001 to 30.8% in 2013.
  • The proportion of UK households where neither parent work decreased from 6% in 2001 to 4.8% in 2013.
  • In the UK there has been a significant decline in the proportion of fathers doing shift work or working evenings or nights. The proportion of fathers who usually work at weekends has increased significantly, while mothers’ weekend and shift work has remained the same.
  • In 16 of the 17 countries studied, the proportion of sole male breadwinner households decreased – only in Slovakia did the proportion increase.
  • In countries that were most affected by the recession, the proportion of workless households significantly increased. In Greece, for example, the proportion of workless households increased from 2.4% in 2001 to 9.9% in 2013.

Professor Margaret O’Brien, Director of the Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL said: “This research highlights the variety in family working practices across Europe and how this has changed over the last decade, a period that includes the Great Recession.”

Dr Svetlana Speight, Research Director at NatCen Social Research said: “This new data builds on what we already knew about modern fatherhood: that the sole male breadwinner model is in decline across Europe. Mothers are now more likely to work and, in the UK, more likely to work full-time, at the same time as fathers are working a shorter week, which allows them to take on more childcare responsibilities.”

Dr Matthew Aldrich, Lecturer in Economics, UEA said: “Whilst some countries were shielded from the effects of the recession, families in most European countries used a myriad of responses to the challenging labour market – particularly the use of non-standard working patterns and working hours.”

Notes to editors:

1. For further details contact Leigh Marshall: [email protected] 0207 549 8506 or 0782 803 1850

2. NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

3. About UCL (University College London): UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world’s top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 35,000 students from 150 countries and over 11,000 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion. | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel

4. The University of East Anglia (UEA) is among the top 1% of universities globally (Times Higher Education World Rankings 2014-15) and placed 10th in the UK for the quality of its research output (Research Excellence Framework 2014). Its Centre for Research on Children and Families, founded in 1996, is in the forefront of research on vulnerable children, parenting and family change.

5. NatCen Social Research, Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU, UCL) and the University of East Anglia have been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative to investigate fathers, work and families in twenty-first century Britain. The project aims to bridge the information gaps on fathers and establish the UK’s foremost analysis about the lives of fathers using data from four large-scale survey series: Understanding Society, the European Union Labour Force Survey, the European Social Survey and the British Household Panel Study. Although principally focused on fathers in the UK, this study will also include international data to enhance understanding of the role that factors in society play in shaping fathers’ work and family life.