“Preference for leisure”: Germans want to work less

“Preference for leisure”
Germans want to work less

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According to a study, people in Germany would like to spend less time in paid work per week – across all age groups. The numbers changed very significantly, particularly for one group of employed people.

According to a study by the employer-related Institute of the German Economy (IW), Germans want to work less. For the youngest employees up to the age of 25, the desired working hours fell by a good three to around 35 hours per week from 2007 to 2021, the “Rheinische Post” from Düsseldorf reported in advance from the as yet unpublished study. For 26 to 40-year-olds it fell by around two hours per week to just under 34, and for those over 40 it fell by almost three hours per week to 32.

The IW study is based on regular surveys of tens of thousands of employees for the Socio-Economic Panel with its large social science database. The working time preferences of dependent employees were considered, excluding pupils, students and trainees. The panel was asked about the desired working hours with the information that if the working hours were reduced, the wages would change accordingly.

For younger workers up to the age of 25 with low incomes, the desired working hours have fallen particularly sharply since 2007 – by 6.3 hours per week. But younger people with higher incomes also want to work three hours less. “The thesis that younger people are reducing their job offer because they are saturated and have lower consumer desires cannot be confirmed with the available data,” said the IW.

Young people want more free time

Women wanted to work an average of 29.5 hours per week in 2021, men 35.4 hours. For women under 25 it was 37 hours in 2007, then 33 hours in 2021. For men between 26 and 40 years old it was almost 40 hours in 2007 and 36 hours in 2021. Among schoolchildren and students, the desire to work full-time fell from 62 to 48 percent.

“The development of young people’s working time preferences indicates that their preference for leisure time has increased – in this respect the thesis of leisure-oriented Generation Z could be seen as confirmed,” was quoted from the IW study. However, it turns out that “the leisure time preference of older age groups did not increase to a lesser extent, so this is not something that is unique to the younger generation.”

The increasing interest in shorter working hours comes “at a time when demographic change is severely reducing the labor supply”. It is questionable whether it will be possible to compensate for the departure of baby boomers from the labor market through intensified immigration and an increase in the propensity to work.

An extension of working hours is therefore an important adjustment screw. “If employees’ preferences go in the opposite direction, it is even more urgent that politicians create framework conditions that make an extension of working hours appear attractive,” warned the IW in its study.

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