The charts that show the working week is getting shorter

The working week is getting shorter

The working week is getting shorter.

Office of National Statistics data show that by 2013, fulltime workers in the UK were working an average of 36.7 hours a week.

That's the same number of hours as before the financial crisis hit in 2008, when people worked fewer hours because less work was available

But the number of hours worked is falling again

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The ONS said that could be for a number of reasons.

1.    Households might think they are on a more secure financial footing than they were during the financial crisis and be working less.

2.    It might be a temporary change, which would give employers some leeway to give their workers longer hours.

Fewer hours are in line with a long historical trend. 

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The working week has been shrinking ever since the nineteenth century.

That’s partly because the workplace is far more diverse than it used to be. 

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While young men under the age of 40 might have worked 50 or 60 hours a week in the past, women and older people now contribute to the workplace.

More flexible working hours have come as part of greater diversity.

Shorter working hours might not always be a good thing. 

During a downturn, there might not be enough work to go around. People are forced to take part time jobs even when they want to work full time. 

Martin Weale, external member of the monetary policy committee, Bank of England, has written a report on the phenomenon.

He said if people move into full-time work as demand picks up, the shorter working week could turn out to be a temporary phenomenon. 

“But if more were to move from being involuntarily to voluntarily part time, then the reduced week might be longer-lasting,” Weale said.

Fulltime workers worked 37 hours a week on average at the end of 2015, the ONS data shows. That works out at 7.5 hours a day. 

If the trend continues, we may reach a point where the six hour work day, which has been trialled in Sweden and some parts of the UK, becomes a reality, whether employers want it to or not.

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