The Bank of Spain warns that the reduction in working hours will increase in the coming years due to the boost in part-time employment, the increase in the weight of the service sector and the progressive demographic aging
The working day of Spanish workers has been reduced by more than an hour after the covid-19 pandemic. This is confirmed by a report published this Monday by the Bank of Spain, which warns that this trend to cut the number of hours worked that has been recorded in recent decades has accelerated with the health crisis and will continue over the coming years.
Thus, although the number of employed persons has recovered by far after the pandemic, the same is not true of the hours per worker, which at the end of 2022 stood at 4% below those observed three years earlier, something that is due, Mainly, due to the increase in sick leave, which is still at high levels after the covid, according to data from the Active Population Survey that the Bank of Spain extracts in this study.
The reduction in working hours as a result of the pandemic is widespread among the different population groups, regardless of their demographic and employment characteristics. Thus, the supervisor concludes that there is no very differentiated behavior between them, except in the case of temporary contracts, a group for which the working day remains farthest from the pre-crisis level.
This cut in working hours is observed not only among the activities most affected by covid-19, such as transportation and the hotel industry, but also in the rest, and it is more acute in commerce, construction, and manufacturing, which remain far from its historical profile. On the contrary, the working day has only lengthened in real estate activities and in agriculture.
If we go back one to three decades, the average weekly working day in Spain has fallen from 37 hours in 1987 to 31.8 hours in 2019, which means a cut of between 200 and 300 hours per employee, a fall of more than 14%. It is true that part of this decrease is due to technological progress, which has allowed productivity gains that give rise to an increase in the hours assigned to leisure at the expense of those devoted to work, according to the Bank of Spain. But it should be noted that this fall is due to a greater extent to some structural changes in the Spanish economy -also extrapolated to a global level-, such as the progressive incorporation of women into the labor market, the trend towards a higher ratio of part-time employment , the greater weight of the services sector in the economy and, more recently, demographic ageing.
On the other hand, the Bank of Spain values that the variations in the length of the working day give companies a flexible instrument to adjust their wage costs in the face of negative shocks without having to cut their workforces. And this was highlighted in the pandemic, which created an ideal context for the use of the average duration of the working day as an instrument for adjusting the degree of use of the work factor, thanks to the widespread use of ERTEs.
Looking to the future, the public body anticipates that the profile of the decline in hours worked per employee will continue in the coming years, since the progressive demographic aging will exert downward pressure on the average working day, as the number of hours increases. weight of older workers in employment as a whole.
This last group has, on average, a shorter working day, an aspect that will be reinforced by the foreseeable extension of working life through the delay in the retirement age and by the possible incentives for partial retirement. In addition, it is expected that services will continue to gain weight within economic activity as a whole, which would also tend to reduce the average number of hours worked.
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