The Decreasing Trend of Overextended Work Hours in the Digital Age

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The number of Germans working long hours is decreasing, with only 8.3 percent of full-time workers in 2022 having to work more than 48 hours per week, according to the Federal Statistical Office. This is the lowest percentage since German unification in 1991. In 2021, the percentage was slightly higher at 8.9 percent. On average, full-time employees worked 40.4 hours per week.

However, the self-employed are still disproportionately affected by excessive working hours, with 38.6 percent having to work longer hours in 2022. This percentage has also decreased, but it is still high. Among self-employed individuals with employees, almost half (48.8 percent) still have to work more hours. Self-employed bosses also tend to finish work later, with around 32 percent regularly working between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. in 2022. Among employees, only 14 percent work these hours regularly.

The daily working time for employees in Germany is regulated by the German Working Hours Act, which allows for an average of eight hours per day and up to ten hours on individual days. Rest periods between working periods are also regulated. The exact working hours are specified in employment or collective agreements. However, the Working Hours Act does not apply to self-employed individuals and freelancers, although there are exceptions for some senior professional groups.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, the duration of employment with an employer is decreasing. In 2022, less than half (42.8 percent) of employees had been with their current employer for at least ten years, compared to 48.3 percent in 2012. On the other hand, more than a third (38.0 percent) had been employed by their current employer for less than five years, an increase compared to 2012 (34.4 percent).

Overall, the decrease in long working hours for Germans is a positive trend, but there are still challenges to be addressed, especially for self-employed individuals. The duration of employment with an employer is also changing, with more people having shorter tenures.

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