Brits work longer hours than most of Europe
Research shows we work more hours than most Europeans but our living standards are the second highest.
According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we Brits work some of the longest hours in Europe.
We're working hard...
However, at 36.3 hours a week for April to June 2011, the average working time in the UK is actually shorter than the European Union (EU) average of 37.4 hours. This is due to the UK having a higher percentage of part-timers: 27% of our workforce versus 20% in the EU.
When we only look at full-time work, British workers put in 42.7 hours a week, 1.1 hours more than the 41.6 hours worked across the EU as a whole. Therefore, British full-time workers work 2.6% more hours than our European cousins, which adds up to an extra 57.2 hours a year.
For the record, only full-time workers in Austria and Greece work longer weeks, both at 43.7 hours, which is one hour more than we Brits do. The shortest full-time hours were in Denmark, at 39.1 hours per week.
...but often for nothing
In addition, we Brits put in plenty of unpaid overtime.
Full-time managers and senior officials work 46.2 hours on average, but get only 38.5 paid hours. In other words, they work unpaid for an average of 7.6 hours a week. Other professionals work 36.6 paid hours and 43.4 total hours, a gap of 6.8 unpaid hours.
At the other end of the job spectrum, full-time workers in the lowest-skilled jobs work 41.4 paid hours, but with little or no unpaid overtime.
But there's no work for 2.64 million
December brought more bad news on unemployment from the Office of National Statistics.
In August to October, there were 29.1 million working people aged 16 and over, down 63,000 in three months. As a result, the employment rate for 16- to 64-year-olds fell from 70.5% to 70.3%. Of these workers, 23.1 million worked in the private sector, while six million worked in the public sector.
Alas, unemployment leapt over these three months, up 128,000 to hit 2.64 million, the highest level since 1994. The UK unemployment rate jumped from 7.9% to 8.3% of the economically active population, the highest rate since 1996.
Inflation outpaces pay...
Total pay including bonuses rose by 2% on a year earlier, versus 2.3% in the three months to September. This shows the weak pay growth in both the private and public sectors.
Sadly, with the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation (the rising cost of living) climbing by 4.8% in the year to November, wages are actually falling in real (after-inflation) terms.
...but we have a high standard of living
After all that doom and gloom, let's end on a more optimistic note.
In 2010, the UK's standard of living was the second highest in the EU, according to Eurostat's measure of Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) per head. Eurostat found that only Luxembourg has a higher standard of living than the UK.
This pan-European survey found that the UK's consumption per head was more than a fifth (21%) above the EU average. Luxembourg's AIC figure was 50% higher than the Continental average. The worst standard of living was found in Bulgaria, which was 58% below average.
Then again, the report also reviewed price levels across Europe and found that prices in the UK were 2% above the EU average in 2010. The most expensive country in the EU was Denmark, with prices 47% above average. Bulgaria was the least expensive nation, with prices 55% below the norm.
In summary, we Brits work longer hours and do a lot more unpaid overtime than our Continental neighbours. However, we also enjoy much higher living standards than most Europeans, a fact which is surely worth celebrating!