Analytical Corner: Why are workers in Europe working fewer hours?


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Three years after the COVID-19 crisis, average hours per worker in Europe have not recovered to their pre-pandemic level. This column explains that this decline is not cyclical but predominantly structural, extending a long-term trend that predates COVID-19, and also predominantly reflects worker preferences. The trend fall in average hours worked seems unlikely to reverse. Policy reforms could help involuntary part-timers and women with young children work more as they desire, but the associated boost to EU-wide average hours worked would at most reverse only about one-fifth of its drop in the last two decades.



Ippei Shibata

European Department, IMF

Niels-Jakob Hansen

Western Hemisphere Department, IMF