Since David Cameron promised an in-out referendum in the Conservative Party manifesto, the question of Britain's membership of the European Union has rarely made it out of the headlines. With the referendum provisionally scheduled for autumn 2017, there has been a lot of speculation on what it actually means to be European and whether we're in fact better off in or out of the bloc - how much do we actually have in common with our European counterparts?
We are probably all guilty of making assumptions about how we compare to other European countries, but how much do working lives really vary across the EU? We recently created an application at Qlik to analyse just that. The app, for the first time, collates data from various European sources in order to help paint a true picture of the different work trends of different European Union Member States. This includes data pertaining to our qualifications, salaries, industries and the hours we work, allowing us to see what exactly we have in common when it comes to our jobs- or if we're going about our working lives completely differently.
By aggregating this data, we've discovered a number of insights around how the UK stacks up in Europe, helping us understand how we fare in the context of Europe and perhaps identify areas where we can learn from other regions. Some of the most interesting insights we've garnered from analysing this data include:
1) Brits earn more 40% more than the European average despite working the sixth fewest hours in the EU
The average annual UK salary is just over €35,925 (over £25,000), nearly 40% more than the European average of €26,051 (£18,228). This is perhaps unsurprising given that in the UK 31.5 percent of the population has a tertiary education qualification, and that 34.8 percent of the workforce is employed in the professional or managerial sector.
However, we also found that we tend to work an hour less a week than the European average of 37.93. In a similar trend to the UK, the Germans, Danish and Dutch work the fewest hours per week but all come in the top five in terms of yearly salary.
Interestingly, the Greeks earn an average salary almost €9,000 below the EU average despite working the longest hours. The Greeks work four hours more a week on average, equating to almost half of an additional working day.
2) However, we're not that productive...
When you cross-reference the data, we're not very productive workers despite our high salaries. With the exception of France, four of the other five countries with the highest rates of productivity in the Eurozone are also amongst the five top countries in the Eurozone in terms of average salary.
The UK actually only just makes it into the top 10 most productive countries in Europe. France, Germany and Ireland all rank above us. The data shows us that an average worker in the UK contributes roughly £26 (43 euro) per hour to GDP, which is £4 less than an average worker in Ireland, equating to a difference of around £600 per month, per worker.
Although perhaps not favourable for the British public, these findings resonate with research from The Economist earlier this year which found that the French could take Friday off and still produce more work per week than Britons do.
Having lived and worked in Sweden (which scores slightly higher than the UK in the productivity table) for the best part of a decade, I found there are a few things the UK could learn from our Scandinavian cousins to potentially become more productive. For example, we could take some cues from their collaborative attitude in the workplace, which is useful for productivity - as well as innovation. We were also instructed that the most value can be driven when everyone's input is acknowledged and teams are encouraged to work together. As a result, Scandinavian companies are great at realising that a business is only as efficient as how its people work together. UK businesses could find themselves rising up the rankings if they take a similar approach to how employees work with each other.
3) The UK has the most statutory leave in the EU
Britons and Lithuanians are granted 28 days of statutory leave on average per year, the highest in the European Union.
Whilst the European average is only 20 days, this remains higher than in many other parts of the world. In the US for example, there is no statutory minimum, meaning that it is completely up to employers how many paid days of holiday they offer as part of their compensation and benefits packages.
As huge decisions on our European membership are being made both by us and our governing bodies, it's increasingly important for us to know how we compare to our European counterparts, and for us all to realise what we can learn from each other. The data that we've analysed shows us that there is no one way of being European and that we can all benefit from taking a deeper look at our differences. As the economy picks up and businesses focus on improving processes and skills, it's a real advantage to be able to look across the waters and see how our neighbours do it.