University of Strathclyde (Fraser of Allander Institute)

June 2021

Hourly wages have often been the focus when discussing and analysing earnings inequality and in-work poverty. But the number of hours that workers spend doing paid work each week also has a big influence on earnings and household incomes.

This report examines patterns and trends in weekly hours worked in the UK over the past two decades. It considers the factors that influence those trends, and examines the role that hours worked play in influencing inequality and poverty.

The analysis highlights the difference in trends between male and female workers. In the ten years since the financial crisis of 2009, male average hours per week have remained largely unchanged, breaking a decades long downward trend. The trend of working hours for women is quite different. Average weekly hours worked have increased over the past 25 years. The rate of increase was very slow until 2008, but has been slightly faster in the period since the end of the financial crisis.

It also found that hours worked are not a strong indicator of household income – many employees in low-income households work long hours, and many in high income households work fewer hours.

The report also considers what role policy can and should play in shaping patterns of working hours – could a four day working week improve be beneficial?

Download the report