Contract cleaning data for Europe

21st of March 2018
Contract cleaning data for Europe
Contract cleaning data for Europe

The European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI) – the umbrella organisation representing the contract cleaning sector across Europe – has published its latest survey on the cleaning industry in Europe.

Data for the European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI) survey is gathered from its member associations on the basis of a questionnaire and the latest report relates to the year 2014. In that year cleaning contractors achieved a total turnover of €73.925 billion in the 20 European countries covered by the survey. This represents a significant recovery after the global financial and economic crisis between 2008 and 2010. On average the annual turnover growth in the industry over the last 25 years is at 9.35 per cent.

Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain are the five largest national markets. Together, they represent around 72 per cent of the total European turnover.

Market penetration

The market penetration is defined as the share of the global cleaning services contracted out to specialised cleaning companies with the difference being performed in-house. This figure, which is
very important for the industry, is quite difficult to evaluate precisely. In most countries surveyed, the basis for this estimation comes from sales statistics provided by manufacturers of cleaning products and machinery.

Market penetration by cleaning contractors is now estimated to be at a level of around 65 per cent. The fact 35 per cent of cleaning services are still performed in-house obviously represents significant potential for economic development. Three groups of countries can be separated in terms of their contracted-out statistics.

The first group with a penetration rate of 70 per cent or higher includes the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Portugal, the UK, Spain, Finland and France. The second group with a rate of 55 per cent or higher includes Germany, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and Slovenia. The third group has a rate lower than 55 per cent and this includes Poland, Hungary, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Market sectors

The latest report also looks at developments in various segments and breaks them down by market share. The majority of total turnover is still in office cleaning at 51.8 per cent with the many other sectors following a long way behind – the next largest is schools and leisure at 8.5 per cent; then industrial sites at 8.1 per cent; and hospitals at 7.3 per cent. There is a diversification of activities towards integrated services and facilities management, however no data is available.

Number of companies

The total number of cleaning contractors in the 20 countries covered by the survey was 171,560 and the improved economic situation led to an increase in the number of companies in the majority of countries: Austria, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Figures on the breakdown of companies according to their turnover do not exist in most of the countries covered by the survey. So the breakdown of companies has been carried out according to the number of employees, however it is widely assessed that, on average, companies employing more than 500 people – about 1.39 per cent - achieve almost half of the total turnover in the industry.

The professional cleaning sector is still largely dominated by small companies, with 77.15 per cent of them employing less than 10 people. The number of small companies has been increasing since 2008 while the number of large companies remains stable.

Germany however, appears to be the exception. There, 7.5 per cent of cleaning companies employ more than 500 people, 18.5 per cent employ between 50 and 500 people, 5.5 per cent employ between 10 and 50 people and 68.5 per cent employ less than 10 people.

In national terms, the most important increase in the number of companies between 2012 and 2014 could be registered in Norway (+53 per cent), Luxembourg (+26 per cent), Sweden (+25 per cent), France (+23 per cent) and Switzerland (+18 per cent).

The strong increase in Norway is mainly due to the increase of self-employed people that establish companies, to the favourable national economic climate and to a recent actualisation of previously underestimated figures. In Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland, the company increase is directly related to an underestimation of previous figures and a strong increase of business activities, in parallel to the turnover growth in these countries.

In France the increase can be explained by a recent actualisation of the previously underestimated figures and by a continuous recourse to the widespread status of “self-entrepreneur”, established in 2010. Growth in the number of companies can also be seen in Austria (+7.1 per cent), the Netherlands (+5.2 per cent), Finland (+3.8 per cent), Spain (+1.2 per cent) and Italy (+0.45 per cent). These figures can be mainly explained by the favourable economic climate.


In 2014 more than 3.39 million people were employed in the cleaning industry, compared to 3.32 million in 2012. This represents an increase of 2.3 per cent over two years.

Germany remains the biggest employer in absolute figures with 18.18 per cent of the total workforce and employment growth of 6.2 per cent between 2012 and 2014. Then come France, the UK, Italy
and Spain, all between 14.2 per cent and 9.74 per cent of the workforce. In total around 68 per cent of the total cleaning sector workforce is employed in those five countries.

Working periods

Most cleaning services are still carried out outside the usual periods of occupation of the premises, according to the report. This is particularly true for office cleaning, but also applies to commercial premises and buildings with public access. On an EU average cleaning services are performed either early in the morning (27 per cent) or in the late afternoon/beginning of the evening (37 per cent).

In Finland and Sweden however, daytime cleaning is the norm and represents 75 and 73 per cent of the total respectively. Poland and Norway are in joint third place at 50 per cent followed by Denmark and Belgium where daytime cleaning accounts for almost half of the total. In the rest of Europe daytime cleaning is still limited – in fact the average of 30 per cent is reduced to 13.7 per cent if those six countries are not taken into account.

So despite technical developments such as cordless and quieter machines most clients are still reluctant to accept daytime cleaning. In its Joint Declaration for the cleaning industry the EFCI and trade union organisation UNI-Europa stress its benefits which include more opportunities for full-time work, improved professionalism, employee motivation and recognition and better work/life balance.

Part-time work remains the dominant form of employment and covers 66 per cent of the workforce. Over time however, the trend has been downwards, as it represented more than 80 per cent in the late 80s and even in 1995 it was 75 per cent.

Finland is one example where full-time work has taken over from part-time employment – in 2001 60 per cent of cleaners were part-time and this had decreased to 33 per cent in 2014. Together with Poland, at 30 per cent, it has the lowest level of part-time work in Europe.

The average duration of work in the cleaning industry across Europe is still relatively low – on average 23 hours per week. At national level there are some interesting variations. In Germany for example, the average duration of work has decreased from 20 to 15 hours, in Switzerland from 18 to 12 hours and in the UK from 15 to 13 hours. Meanwhile in France it has increased from 22 to 27 hours, and in Spain from 25 to 28 hours.

Traditionally women constitute the major part of the workforce in the sector, indeed they represent on average 72 per cent of the total number. Over a longer time scale between 2006 and 2014 it is interesting to note the average proportion of women in the sector has been continually decreasing, as in 2006 the figure was 77 per cent.

Many women

Austria (89 per cent), followed by the Czech Republic (85 per cent), Luxembourg and Slovenia (both 80 per cent) are by far the countries with the highest rate of women in the cleaning sector, while Belgium (57 per cent), the UK (57 per cent), Norway (60 per cent) and Denmark (64 per cent) on the other hand, show to be between 15 per cent and eight per cent below the European average.
Another characteristic of employment is the high proportion of workers from ethnic minorities or migrant workers: the EU average is 40 per cent.

Because of inevitable demographic change there will be some significant challenges to face in the future says EFCI. Those changes include fall in fertility, increase in life expectancy and the ageing of the baby-boomer generation. This will make it more difficult to recruit and retain employees, which is where EFCI says daytime cleaning may be among the solutions as it will allow longer working hours and may make the sector more attractive for young people.


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