Importance and applications

Working time statistics are needed to evaluate the effect on workers’ health and safety of the number of hours worked and how these are organised during the day, week or month, and to monitor working hours and schedules in relation to existing laws and regulations regarding (a) the maximum hours that workers are expected to work on a daily or weekly basis, (b) the number of overtime hours, (c) working schedules other than regular full-time schedules, such as night work, shift work, etc., and (d) certain absences from work, such as vacation, sick leave and maternity leave. These laws and regulations generally apply only to workers in paid employment and those employed mainly in the formal sector, but it is useful to have statistics that in addition cover all workers, in order to evaluate the impact of these laws and regulations as well as other factors on all workers in the economy.

Statistics on working time are also needed to construct economic indicators, such as the average hourly earnings, the average labour cost per unit of time and labour productivity, as well as to estimate time-related underemployment, which, together with unemployment, describes insufficient labour absorption by the economy. These applications are particularly important to evaluate and monitor the effects of reduced working hours on the economy and on the number of persons in employment. For these purposes, statistics on the length of working time need to refer to the same reference period and cover the same group of workers as are covered in statistics of, e.g., earnings, labour cost, employment-related income and production. Statistics on earnings and labour cost are, by definition, limited to workers in paid employment, but in order to obtain hourly estimates of employment-related income, reliable statistics are needed on the hours worked by all workers, including the self-employed. Similarly, the calculation of labour productivity requires statistics on the total hours workers by all persons in employment in the year in the sector(s) studied. Statistics on annual hours of work are preferred over statistics on persons in employment .

Finally, statistics on working time are also needed to implement, monitor and evaluate policies and programmes that target the balancing of work and family life, an area which has become increasingly important in the context of the massive entrance of women into the labour market. Part-time work and flexible working time arrangements are considered to be a major method to enable workers to achieve this balance, and thus statistics on the length and scheduling of working time as well as on absence from work are necessary to monitor developments in the labour market participation of different population groups, most notably of men as compared to women.