Work timeDoes Luxembourg work more than its neighbours?
LUXEMBOURG – The debate on the abandoned potential of the 40-hour week in Luxembourg has begun, as has the battle of numbers.
In the making for several months, the debate on the potential reduction in working time promises to be a political highlight in the months to come, with an essential question between the lines: do residents and cross-border workers work more than employees? neighboring countries? The Grand Duchy is one of the countries where the legal duration is the highest (40 hours) unlike France (35 hours) for example.
In practice, however, the number of hours worked over a year seems much more balanced. “The average number of hours worked for a person in 2019 is 1,506 hours in Luxembourg compared to 1,576 in Belgium and 1,511 in France. Only Germany comes far behind with 1,382 hours, while the average in OECD countries is 1,593 hours,” explains Jean-Baptiste Nivet, senior economist at the Chamber of Commerce.
“Part-time, parental leave or public holidays affect the amount of work done by employees over a year. This figure also decreased by 60 hours between 2007 and 2019”. For the Chamber of Commerce, the observation is clear: the reduction of working time has already been initiated in practice for several years.
The Ministry of Labor has put forward other figures based on a 2019 Statec study concerning the number of hours worked over a year by employees. full time. With 1,701 hours, the Luxembourgers come far ahead of the Germans (1,677 hours), the French (1,545 hours) and the Belgians (1,495 hours). As soon as he arrived at the head of the ministry, Georges Engel (LSAP) said he was in favor of the reduction in working hours in order in particular to “better reconcile private and professional life”.
“It’s a societal choice. But it would not be without effect. Thus, companies will try to catch up with the fall in the productivity rate, which will have a negative influence on wages, ”explains Mr. Nivet, who foreshadows a risk of “loss of purchasing power” and an increase in labor shortages. working in certain sectors. And the economist specified that the current inflationary context is less favorable “than 4 or 5 years ago”.
“Big societal change”
The Chamber of Commerce thus recalls that working time is not one of the “most important problems” facing Luxembourg, according to the Eurobarometer for the winter of 2021/2022. Housing and inflation came first, but the environment and climate change came third.
However, a reduction in working time would be a strong signal towards a society that is less productive and ultimately more focused on sustainable development. At least Minister Engel joined the Chamber of Commerce on one point: “Reducing working time would be a big societal change”.