Since the 1980s, there has been a gradual decrease in the working day in Spain from the 37 weekly hours that were counted by the media in that decade to 31.8 hours in 2019. This reduction is explained, among other reasons, by technological progress, the the incorporation of women into the labor market (which has increased the number of part-time contracts) or the increasing weight of the service sector in the economy. This trend, which was accelerated as a result of the Covid pandemic and the shutdown of the economy, will continue in the coming years. Specifically, the Bank of Spain forecasts that the aging of the population will reduce the working day by almost three hours a year by 2033.
In the article ‘An analysis of the evolution of the hours worked by employed person in Spain: developments, trends and recent evolution’, published this Monday by the entity, it also points to the relevance that the tertiary sector will continue to gain as another of the factors to reduce the working day together with the demographic crisis. The incentives for partial retirement, the progressive delay in the retirement age and the aging of the population will increase a group that, on average, works fewer hours.
According to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics, last year Spain saw a new aging peak of 133.5%, given that there are 133 people over 64 for every 100 under 16. At the same time, for the Organization The Organization and Economic Development (OECD), which encompasses the most developed countries, requested in a recent analysis about the negative effect on revenue that population decline will have in the largest economies on the planet.
In its document, the BdE analyzes other possible scenarios, depending on how different economic activities behave in the coming decades. In the event that the country converges with the average sectoral structure that predominates in the European Union, the annual working day would be reduced by two and a half hours. If the part-time work gained the same weight as it has in the continent’s leading economy, Germany, the working day could be cut by almost two and a half hours a week. And if there were a drop in the percentage of employed people with lower levels of education, the annual working day could increase by three and a half hours in one year from now.
The working day is still an hour below what it was before the covid
The entity led by Pablo Hernández de Cos confirms, not only that the average duration of the working day has returned to its downward historical profile, but also that it is now slightly more than an hour less than before the utility. Said recovery is lower in the case of workers with a temporary contract. On the contrary, in the real estate and agricultural branches, the duration prior to the coronavirus pandemic has been exceeded.
The Bank of Spain recalls that variations in the duration 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”, as was probably precisely the last health crisis, thanks to the use made of the ERTE. The groups whose weekly working hours were reduced to a greater extent by the pandemic are those employed in branches of activity in which social interaction plays a more relevant role, such as hotels, transport and commerce.
The number of hours worked per employee conditions the extent to which the labor factor contributes to the production of goods and services. Thus, the BdE recalls that an increase in the number of workers is equivalent, if the number of hours per employee or intensive margin remains constant, to an increase in the labor factor, because the total number of hours worked increases. However, if there is an increase in the number of employed, but each of them works fewer hours, the rate of growth in hours worked slows. In this way, the analysis of hours per worker is key when it comes to explaining both long-term trends in employment and its cyclical fluctuations.