Spain puts in more hours to produce much less than the rest of Europe

Spain puts in more hours to produce much less than the rest of Europe

The reduction in working hours that the Spanish government is considering could further harm productivity, which has been stagnant for years and is way off that of other countries

Lucía Palacios


Monday, 30 October 2023


Workers in Spain are putting in more hours but producing much less than the rest of the world, new data shows.

During the period 2014 to 2022 productivity in Spain grew by a mere 0.9%, a third of the growth registered across the rest of Europe, according to Eurostat.

Last year, nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per hour worked in Spain was 76% of the value recorded in the eurozone and only 63% in Germany, a gap of 13 percentage points identical to that which existed in 2000, according to a study recently published by Caixabank Research.

Ireland leads the way

The figures are also grim according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which published its latest statistics last week. Of the 37 countries that form the OECD, and of the most developed regions, 19 are ahead of Spain. Ireland leads the pack, and recorded more than double the Spanish rate, followed by Luxembourg and Norway. Spain is also below the OECD average, which includes emerging countries such as Colombia, Mexico, South Africa and Costa Rica.

The OECD is concerned about Spain's slump and warned the government in a report last week that if "vigorous efforts" are not made to boost its production rate, the margin for achieving greater economic and social progress will be "severely limited".

Reduced working hours challenge

Spain may now face an even more difficult challenge: raising productivity with reduced working hours. The move was proposed by the government: to produce more but with a working week of 37.5 hours instead of the current 40. However it could put a serious strain on the commerce, hotel and catering industries, warned Marcel Jansen, economist at Fedea. "We must regulate what is urgent and not just what is politically convenient," he said.

UGT deputy secretary general for trade union policy, Fernando Luján, however, defended a reduction of hours and said all the experiments carried out had very good results.

But Spain's "weak" productivity is not caused by working hours. OECD pointed out that a "misallocation" of productivity such as not utilising workers' talents is to blame, as well as selecting the wrong people to be in leadership, low investment in training, insufficient spending on education, among others.

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