Capacity Utilisation, Working Time and the Quality of Work

  • Enrique Fernández-Macías
  • Rafael Muñoz Bustillo de Llorente
Part of the Contributions to Economics book series (CE)

Human beings face a double restriction in relation to time and its use. Firstly, time is clearly the ultimate scarce resource; there are only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week and 52 weeks in a year. Although there are activities that can be done simultaneously, such as listening to the radio and cooking, generally speaking the time we devote to something, to work for example, has to be taken out of other activities, such as raising a family, or enjoying a film. Each person faces, therefore, an opportunity cost in terms of time in every activity he or she does. Secondly, human beings are social animals and the use of time is socially modelled. Since history has been recorded, men and women have coordinated their activities in order to work during certain hours, and rest and amuse themselves at other times; for historical and cultural reasons, using the words of the Ecclesiastes, “to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven”. Some of these patterns of time use are biologically determined (circadian cycle, night and day, etc.), while others are explained by cultural factors.

Throughout history, the amount of time used to perform productive activities has followed an inverted U shape, rising with the arrival of agriculture and husbandry and even further with the coming of the industrial age, reaching a maximum at the end of the 18th century, and diminishing since then. So generally speaking, we can say that nowadays workers in high income countries devote less time to work than a century ago. But along with this process of reduction of working time, according to many analysts the last few decades have witnessed a slow process of destandardisation of working time.1 The once dominant rigid distribution of time between work, leisure and rest, represented by the “9 to 5” job, has become less common.2 If we assume that the old time system of coordination of activities, so as to have most people doing the same things (working, resting, amusing themselves) at the same time, had a rationality based on individual and social preferences, this change will have an impact on the work-life balance of workers.


Shift Work Working Time Night Shift Capacity Utilisation European Foundation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bosworth, D. and P. J. Dawkins (1981) Work Patterns. An Economic Analysis, Aldershot: Gower.Google Scholar
  2. Circadian Technologies (2004) Shiftwork Practices 2004, Stoneham, MA: (
  3. Corral, A. and I. Susi (2004) Part-time work in Europe, European Observatory of Working Conditions Comparative Report, Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. (
  4. Cullen, K. (Coord.) (2002) Results of a Family Survey. FAMILIES project Deliverable No. 3, Dublin: Work Research Centre.Google Scholar
  5. Delsen L., D. Bosworth, H. Groß and R. Muñoz de Bustillo (eds.) (2007) Operating Hours and Working Times. A Survey of Capacity Utilization and Employment in the European Union, Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag.Google Scholar
  6. Dembe, A. E., J. B. Erickson, R. G. Delbos and S. M. Banks (2005) The impact of overtime and long work hours on occupational injuries and illnesses: new evidence from the United States, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 62: 588–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. European Telework Online (2004) Teleworking: a Trade Union Perspective, London: MSF Information Technology Professionals Association (
  8. Fernández Macías, E. (2006)Construction of income bands for the 4th European Working Conditions Survey, Research Paper, Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. ( Scholar
  9. Gershuny, J. (2005) Busyness as the badge of honour for the new superordinate working class, Social Research: An International Quarterly of Social Sciences, 72: 287–314.Google Scholar
  10. Golden, L. (2001) Flexible work schedules: what are we trading off to get them?, Monthly Labour Review, March: 50–67.Google Scholar
  11. Harrington, J. M. (2001) Health effects of shift work and extended hours of work, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 58: 68–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hogarth, T., C. Hasluck and G. Pierre (2001) Work-Life Balance 2000: Baseline study of work-life balance practices in Great Britain, Warwick: Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick.Google Scholar
  13. Janssen, B. (1987) Dagdienst en ploegendienst in vergelijkend perspectief (Day-work and shiftwork compared), Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  14. Johnson, K. L. (1997) Shiftwork from a Work and Family Perspective, R-98-2E, Toronto: Human Resources Development Canada.Google Scholar
  15. ILO (1992) Code of Practice on Working Time, Geneva: International Labour Organisation.Google Scholar
  16. Liu, Y. and H. Tanaka (2002) Overtime work, insufficient sleep, and risk of non-fatal acute myocardial infarction in Japanese men, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 59: 447–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. MTAS (2000) Encuesta de Calidad de Vida en el Trabajo, Madrid: Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales.Google Scholar
  18. Muñoz de Bustillo, R., F. Esteve, E. Fernández Macías and A. García (2003) Nuevos Tiempos de Actividad y Empleo, Madrid: Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales.Google Scholar
  19. Muñoz de Bustillo R. and E. Fernández Macías (2005) Job satisfaction as an indicator of the quality of work, Journal of Socio-Economics, 34: 656–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Parent-Thirion, A., E. Fernández Macías, J. Hurley and G. Vermeylen (2007) Fourth European Working Conditions Survey, Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.Google Scholar
  21. Parnanen, A., H. Sutela and S. Mahler (2005) Combining family and full-time work, European Working Conditions Observatory Comparative Report, Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.Google Scholar
  22. Ratjaratnam, S. M. W. and J. Arendt (2001) Health in a 24-h society, Lancet, 358, September 22: 999–1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rosa, R. R. and M. J. Colligan (1997) Plain Language about Shiftwork, Cincinati, Ohio: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  24. Shields, M. (2000) Long working hours and health, Perspectives, Statistics Canada, Spring: 49–56.Google Scholar
  25. Tepas, D. I. (1985) Flexitime, compressed workweeks and other alternative work schedules, in: S. Folkard and R. Monk (eds.) Hours of work. Temporal factors in work-scheduling, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, 47–164.Google Scholar
  26. Wallace, M. (1998) OHS Implications of Shiftwork and Irregular Hours, National Occupation Health & Safety Development Grant, Australia: National Occupation Health & Safety Commission.Google Scholar
  27. Wedderburn, A. (1992) Compensation for shiftwork, Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.Google Scholar
  28. Wedderburn, A. (1996) Compressed Working Time, BEST Bulletin, No 10. Luxemburg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Physica-Verlag Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enrique Fernández-Macías
    • 1
  • Rafael Muñoz Bustillo de Llorente
    • 2
  1. 1.University of SalamancaSalamancaDublin
  2. 2.University of SalamancaSalamancaSpain

Personalised recommendations