Germans work fewer hours over their lifetime than their European neighbours

Germans work fewer hours over their lifetime than their European neighbours

In comparison to their European neighbours, people in Germany work fewer hours throughout their lifetime, a new study has revealed, but there is still a big appetite for a four-day week in the federal republic.

Germans work an average of 52.662 hours throughout their lives

A new study from the Roman Herzog Institute has laid out the working habits of people in European countries. In comparison to their neighbours, Germans are on the clock for fewer hours throughout their lives, clocking in an estimated 52.662 hours of work, which means 39,3 years of their lives are solely occupied by work.

According to the findings, only Luxembourgers work fewer hours in their lives than people who are employed in Germany, giving an estimated 51.113 hours of their lives to their jobs

Much German career news in recent years has been dominated by the prospect of the widespread adoption of a four-day workweek in the federal republic. With Germany's IG Metall (IGM), Europe's largest industrial union, calling for the adoption of a four-day week for its members and the country about to begin the largest-ever four-day week trial in its history, there is certainly an appetite for reducing hours.

Employees in Estonia, Iceland and Ireland work the longest hours

At the other end of the scale in Europe was Estonia. Estonians were estimated to spend 71.331 years of their lives working. The report estimated people in Iceland and Ireland to be clocking in 65.784 and 65.285 hours of their lives respectively, both well over the EU estimated average of 57.342 hours. 

Across European countries, the 40-hour week was adopted between the 1880s and late 1920s. Today, Belgium and Italy, two of the European countries which were later to adopt the reduced hours in 1924 and 1925, join Luxembourg, Germany and Bulgaria in the top five countries where workers put in the fewest hours over their lifetime. 

While it is somewhat uninspiring to think that so many of life’s hours are dedicated to business rather than pleasure, the EU estimated average of submitting 57.342 hours of our lives to work seems pitiful in a global context. Across the world, people spend an average of 90.000 hours of their lives working, amounting to about a third of their lifetimes. Remember, another third goes toward sleeping. Time for a holiday!

Thumb image credit: Alberto Menendez Cervero /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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