Employees in Germany work the most overtime in Europe

Employees in Germany work the most overtime in Europe

Whether it’s eating lunch at your desk, finishing that report on the train, or checking your emails in bed, new technology and flexible work contracts have made it easier than ever to work outside normal office hours. And people working in Germany do the most overtime in Europe, a new study has found.

Majority of workers in Germany do unpaid overtime

In the study, published by human resources company ADP, 10.000 workers across several European countries were asked about their day-to-day work. Some of the questions focussed specifically on working hours, asking respondents how much unpaid overtime they do, on average, per week.

Workers in Germany reported by far the highest amount of unpaid overtime, with 71,1 percent of respondents saying that they regularly work additional hours without receiving any compensation in their salary or extra holiday leave. Of those who work unpaid overtime, 26,9 percent work 5 or fewer additional hours, 33,6 percent work 6 to 10 hours, and 10,6 percent work 11 or more hours.

Working overtime in other European countries

This proportion puts Germany well in front of the other countries surveyed. Spain and the United Kingdom came in second and third, with respectively 66,9 percent and 65,9 percent of respondents reporting working through their lunch breaks or after hours. However, in the UK, those who work overtime tend to work far longer hours, with 22,2 percent reporting unpaid overtime of 11 or more additional hours per week.

The country with the least amount of unpaid overtime was Poland, where only 43,3 percent of respondents indicated that they often work outside of regular hours. In France and the Netherlands, the proportion was also much lower than in Germany, and well below the European average of 60 percent.

Comparison of overtime hours in Europe

The percentage of respondents who reported regularly working overtime hours were as follows:

  • 1. Germany - 71,1 percent
  • 2. Spain - 66,9 percent
  • 3. United Kingdom - 65,9 percent
  • 4. Italy - 60,9 percent
  • 5. Switzerland - 58,3 percent
  • 6. France - 57,5 percent
  • 7. The Netherlands - 54,2 percent
  • 8. Poland - 43,3 percent

More hours worked in Germany than ever before

The regularity with which employees in Germany work overtime hours perhaps comes as no surprise: the economy is booming and unemployment is at an all-time low, as scores of international companies set up here. In 2018, residents of Germany collectively worked a record-breaking 61,1 billion hours.   

This does not, however, mean that all employees are working more hours than ever before. In fact, even though the total number of employees in Germany has increased, average workloads have fallen. This is largely due to the increasing popularity of part-time work. According to figures from the Federal Employment Agency, the average number of hours worked per year has fallen from 1.470 in 1991 to 1.287 in 2018.



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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Danbara 06:43 | 1 September 2019

Hello. I'd like to know information source of study in Majority of workers in Germany do unpaid overtime. Could you tell me the website address?

Abi.Carter 12:52 | 5 September 2019

Hi Danbara, you can download the original report here: