Fixed-term work is no longer a compulsion

By RockedBuzz 9 Min Read

Fixed-term contract: Covid had an effect here as well

The proportion of workers on fixed-term contracts fell in the EU during the coronavirus pandemic, after many jobs were lost due to the closures, and layoffs mainly affected workers on fixed-term contracts, in addition to young people, especially if they worked in sectors that were most affected by closures (e.g. catering, tourism). In 2020, the year of the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, the proportion of employees with fixed-term employment contracts thus fell below 14%, while between 2016 and 2018 the rate was still close to 16%.

With the end of the closures and the reopening of the economy, the number of employees with fixed-term contracts began to increase again slightly (their proportion reached 14% in 2021). However, the decrease in the proportion of employment contracts with a duration of six months or less since 2017 continued, the proportion of employees employed in this way decreased to 4% from 6% measured in 2017.


Fixed-term jobs are typically taken on a “non-voluntary basis”, which means that the person working in this form of employment has not found another permanent job. While people with lower education are more likely to work on fixed-term contracts, this type of employment is also common among workers with higher education in education and health.

The proportion of fixed-term contracts has decreased here

The proportion of those employed with fixed-term employment contracts differs significantly in individual EU member states. Southern European countries, as well as the Netherlands and Poland, have the highest proportion of such workers, while the Baltic countries, Bulgaria and Romania have the lowest. In Hungary, at the beginning of the period between 2013-2021, the rate was above 10%, and then it continuously decreased to a level of around 6-7%, which means the lower half of the middle range of the member states.


Looking at the indicators of individual Member States, it can generally be said that employees work in this way more often than voluntarily. This is particularly the case in Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The economy of these countries is largely dependent on tourism, and thus seasonal employment plays a major role.

Nevertheless, in recent years, in most EU member states, the proportion of those who do not voluntarily undertake fixed-term work has continuously decreased. In some member states, among employees with fixed-term employment contracts, the proportion of those who voluntarily work under such conditions is higher. This could be the reason, for example, that in the Netherlands many people work on a trial contract, while in Austria and Germany the employment of trainees is very widespread, and in Poland there is a significant proportion of those who do not want to commit themselves permanently to a specific workplace.

Fewer Hungarians are forced to take fixed-term jobs

In Hungary, even in the mid-2010s, the majority of those with fixed-term employment contracts declared that they did not work voluntarily under such conditions. By 2021, however, the proportion of those with a fixed-term employment contract for any reason exceeded that of those who took on such work because they could not find a permanent job.

If we look at the length of time someone is hired for a fixed-term job, we can see significant differences between the Member States. In Belgium, for example, the majority of employees with fixed-term contracts have contracts of less than one month, while in Austria, Cyprus and Denmark, the largest proportion are employees with contracts of more than three years. In the majority of Member States, contracts with a duration between these two extreme values ​​are the most common. Overall, it can be concluded that the majority of fixed-term employees have contracts of 6-12 months or 12-18 months.

In Hungary, employment contracts with a duration of 6-12 months are the most common, about a quarter of fixed-term contracts are of this type.


The proportion of part-time employment in the EU decreased

Eurofound’s report also examined part-time employment. Between 2013 and 2017, the proportion of people employed part-time was close to 19% in the EU, and then the rate dropped below 18% by 2021.

One of the main reasons for working part-time is that the given employee cannot find a full-time job. However, the proportion of people employed in this way, i.e. in part-time jobs undertaken on a non-voluntary basis, has decreased in recent years (from 6% in 2014 to 4% in 2021).


Another main reason for taking on part-time jobs is caring for children or other family members. As a result, women are nearly three times more likely to work part-time than men, and the gap is even greater between parents and those without children.

Furthermore, it can be observed that higher-educated workers are more likely to work part-time, which is especially true for women. In addition, part-time workers often have a fixed-term employment contract.

The Netherlands stands out in terms of part-time work

Part-time employment is widespread primarily in Western European member states. According to Eurofound’s analysis, in the Netherlands, for example, the proportion of such workers is around 70%, but in other countries it also reaches 40% (Austria, Belgium, Germany). Hungary is among the leaders in this field:

according to the most recent Eurostat data for last year, the proportion of part-time workers in our country is only 4.2 percent, which is the fourth lowest indicator in the EU.

And in the EU, the average indicator was 17 percent in 2021. The rate has not been at such a low level since 2009, when relevant data are available to the EU statistical office. (Interestingly, the Eurofound survey typically reports higher rates of part-time employment than what is included in the Eurostat data. The reason for this is presumably to be found in the different methodology of the surveys. In the case of the Netherlands, for example, according to the Eurostat data, the proportion of part-time workers is much lower compared to the Eurofound survey, slightly Under 40%, it is true that it still leads the ranking of EU member states towering high.)

While in the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg care responsibilities or other family factors are the main reason for part-time work, in France, Italy, Spain and Sweden workers work part-time mainly because they cannot find a full-time job.

Overall, the examination of the proportion of workers employed part-time or with fixed-term contracts shows that in Western Europe, compared to Eastern EU member states, the proportion of workers employed full-time with indefinite contracts is lower, however, in these countries, most atypically employed workers are on a voluntary basis works part-time of his choice. In several southern European countries, however, non-voluntary, often part-time fixed-term employment contracts are quite common.

Cover image source: Shutterstock

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