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Are Europeans that work longer hours more productive?

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By Rachael Kennedy
Are Europeans that work longer hours more productive?

Do Europeans that work longer hours get more done? The answer is no, according to a brief study carried out by the UK's Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Comparing data from the European Union's "mature economies" in 2018, the study found that while full-time workers in the UK had the longest working week, they were also one of the least productive countries.

On the other side, Denmark recorded the shortest working week but was the second most productive country behind Ireland.

Productivity was measured based on a country's GDP-per-hour worked.

In Italy, a reduced working week correlated with lower productivity — Italians ranked joint second alongside the Netherlands and Belgium for the lowest working hours in Europe but were also around 30% less productive.

But we can't be too quick to judge the Italians. While their productivity pales in comparison with results seen in the Netherlands and Belgium, they are fairly average when we look at wider Europe.

Full-time employees across the EU worked 40.2 hours on average per week in 2018, with 91.4% hourly productivity.

Italians worked an average of 39 hours and were only 0.8% less productive than Europe's average.

Commenting specifically on the UK's result, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said a long-hours culture was "nothing to be proud of".

"It's robbing workers of a decent home life and time with their loves ones," she said.

"Other countries have shown that reducing working hours isn't only good for workers, it can boost productivity."

Based on its findings, the TUC said it supported less working hours overall, including the introduction of more bank holidays and a four-day week.