EU survey shows remaining gender differences, challenges for work-life-balance and obstacles for older workers

Eurofound, the European Foundation for Working and Living Conditions, has recently released its sixth edition of the Working Conditions Survey, conducting almost 36.000 interviews with employees and self-employed about different areas of work-life. In in-depth look at the survey also provides valuable information on the status quo and on trends with regard to work-life balance or employment of older workers.

The first findings of the Sixth European Working Conditions Survey, recently published by Eurofound, contain both good and bad news from a Diversity perspective, although this may depend on one’s point of view at certain points. Reflecting the results of the survey, AGE Platform Europe for example states that “Positive developments in the report include [...] a majority of respondents expressing satisfaction with their working time (58%)“. What looks good on first sight however means that 42% of respondents are not satisfied with their working time, which seems to be quite a lot when thinking about the consequences for motivation, well-being, productivity etc.

Having a closer look on the numbers it becomes that these 42% come from two different directions. About 60% of respondents who are working 41-47 or 48+ hours per week would prefer working less then they currently so. At the same time 40% of people working 20 hours per week or less and still more than 25% of those working between 21 and 34 hours would prefer to work more than currently. The first results do not provide information on gender for this question but baring in mind findings of other studies and experience from practice it is probably mostly women in part-time who wish to work more than they currently do and mostly men who work more than they would if they could frankly chose their actual amount of working hours. This gender difference will remain an important challenge for corporate working-time policy and is of special interest with regard to work-life-balance for men. On the bottom line, it becomes clear that working time preferences are as diverse as employees are and hence working-time policies must be able to react to the specific needs of diverse people.

The report also unravels some Gender differences: It shows that while men report more paid working hours then women, care responsibilities and unpaid domestic work are unevenly shared by women and men, with women undertaking a bigger share of unpaid work. As a result, women in total show a higher amount of total working time than men when summing up paid and unpaid work. This is especially true and striking for employees working part-time where the difference between men and women accounts for as much as 18h/ week (32h vs. 50h).

With regard to older workers, the survey finds that members of this group report a high risk of being in painful or tiring positions (43%) and are the group which is the least learning new things on the job (33%) and takes the least part in training activities (38%, compared to 43% for 35-49 year-olds and 41% for under 35 year-olds). They also report poor prospects for advancing their career (71%). Older workers are most affected by restructuring or reorganisation.

Furthermore, work is becoming more concentrated, with more work to tight deadlines and has become faster. This can pose a challenge especially to older workers. 17% of women and 15% of men report having been exposed to adverse social behaviour, and 7%, an increasing number, report to have experienced discrimination.


The EWCS is a wide-ranging survey of workers carried out by Eurofound every five years since 1991. The survey interviews employees and self-employed workers about key issues related to their work and.The sixth edition of the EWCS was carried in 2015 in 35 countries. The EU28 analysis is based on 35,765 interviews that took place between February and September 2015.


For a more detailled analysis of the Gender aspects of the survey you may also read this article.

For more information on this survey in general, you may see Eurofound, First findings: Sixth European Working Conditions Survey.