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Workers’ hours down by one-third since 1950

The hours put in by Swiss workers have decreased by one third since 1950, according to a study sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Based on the new complete data on working hours for 1950 to 2010, the study found that performance in terms of labour productivity growth had been underestimated.

Author Michael Siegenthaler from the KOF Research Institute at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich claims the previously available data was incoherent and incomplete, leading to a “flawed” discussion on the evolution of labour productivity.

The study finds that productivity growth since the 1970s has been relatively stable, contradicting the prevailing view that Switzerland underwent a productivity slump in the 1980s and 1990s.

While workers in 1950 clocked up an average of 2,400 hours per year, the rate in 2010 was just 1,600, which translates into roughly 15 fewer hours per week.

A full-time worker in 1950 put in an average of 50 hours per week, compared to 42 hours now. On top of that, holidays have increased from a fortnight to some five weeks per year.

The change largely happened before 1960, with hours worked remaining nearly stagnant between 1960 and 2005.

Another startling difference between the post-war period and the 21st century is the proportion of part-time workers, which has jumped from five per cent to 31 per cent, the majority of whom are women.

The researchers say the findings do not call into question the modern problem of work overload and job burnout.

Siegenthaler pointed out that working hours alone do not say anything about the intensity of the work, which has increased markedly with time due to changed working conditions, such as constantly being reachable.

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