Work hour constraints in the German nursing workforce: A quarter of a century in review
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Background: Work hour constraints (WHC), or the mismatch between desired and actual worktime, can negatively affect work productivity, job satisfaction, worker health and job fluctuations. Objectives: This study analyzes the WHC trends in the German nursing market between 1990 and 2015. Methods: Using data from 25 waves (1990–1995 and 1997–2015) of the German Socio-Economic Panel,the contractual, actual, and desired worktime among a representative sample of German nurses (N = 6493)were analyzed. The trends in over/underemployment for full and part-time nurses and the modalities/trends in overtime compensation were analyzed. A Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition was used to explain changes in worktime. Results: Although German nurses’ actual and contractual work hours decreased substantially between1990 and 2015, their desired work hours remained stable (31 h/week), precipitating a persistent gapbetween actual and desired work hours and an ongoing reliance on overtime. For full-time nurses,the actual work hours consistently exceeded the contracted ones by 3–6 hours. For part-time nurses,the actual and desired work hours have remained very similar, indicating ability to control workforce participation. Conclusions: WHC remained persistently high over the quarter century studied, with overemployment affecting nearly half of the nursing workforce. Overemployment, resulting primarily from overtime, was high among full-time nurses. Study findings could guide the formulation of programs to optimize German nursing workforce participation.