Snapshot of contract cleaning in Europe

17th of May 2011
Snapshot of contract cleaning in Europe
Snapshot of contract cleaning in Europe

The European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI), the contract cleaning industry association representing the sector at EU level, has published its latest market data, relating to the year 2008. ECJ here features extracts from the report, which is now available.

This is the 17th time the European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI) has carried out this survey and, while it is still not a 'statistical' survey in the strictest sense of the word, it is acknowledge as giving a fair picture of the industry and its evolution since 1989.

As usual, data is gathered through the EFCI member associations on the basis of a questionnaire, then collated by the EFCI secretariat in Brussels. It should be noted that the data in this report relates to the year 2008.

Development of the market

Turnover - In 2008, cleaning contractors achieved a total turnover of 61,978 billion euros in the 20 European countries covered by the survey. This represents a net increase of 13.9 per cent over the two years 2006-2008, while EU-27 GDP growth between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 was limited to a growth of respectively 2.9 per cent and 0.9 per cent. On average, the annual employment growth in the industry over the last 18 years is at 9.9 per cent.

These figures confirm the general shift from an industrial economy towards a service-based economy during the last decade. They also illustrate the trend for outsourcing support and ancillary services to contractors.

Breakdown by country - Germany, France, Italy, UK and Spain are the five largest national markets, together representing around 77 per cent of total European turnover. A comparison between 2006 and 2008 shows some interesting developments.

Three of the five largest markets in Europe (Spain, Italy and France) are above the average increase while the UK and Germany registered a slower growth. After Spain, the Slovenian, Italian, French, Finnish and Norwegian markets remain among the most dynamic ones, which reflect the significant increase in market penetration over recent years. However these figures should be treated cautiously since it seems that previous figures were underestimated.

Market penetration - Market penetration is defined as the share of cleaning services contracted out to specialised cleaning companies. This figure is quite difficult to evaluate precisely. In most countries surveyed, the basis for the estimation comes from sales statistics provided by manufacturers of cleaning products and machines.

Summing up, market penetration by cleaning contractors has been growing in recent years and is now at a level of about 63.8 per cent. This means that around 37 per cent of cleaning is still performed in-house - representing huge potential in terms of economic development for the sector, with direct impact on employment.

In national terms, three groups of countries can be distinguished:

1. The first group with a penetration rate of 70 per cent or higher includes Austria, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK and Slovakia.

2. The second group with a rate of 55 per cent or higher includes Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France and Belgium.

3. The third group with a rate lower than 55 per cent includes Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Switzerland and Czech Republic.

The contractors

The total number of cleaning contractors in the 20 countries covered by the survey exceeded 158,430 - an increase of 22.4 per cent over the two years 2006-2008. This represents an average growth of 11.2 per cent in both years. It must be taken into account, however, that Germany alone experienced an increase of 7,570 companies in these two years - this is because of market liberalisation in 2004. France, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy also registered very strong growth in their number of companies.

Breakdown by size - Figures on the breakdown of companies according to their turnover do not exist in most of the countries covered by the survey.  Therefore the breakdown of companies has been carried out according to the number of employees. So it has been calculated that, on average, companies employing more than 500 people (about 1.4 per cent) achieve almost half of the total turnover in the industry.

The sector is still largely dominated by very small companies - about 74 per cent of them employ less than 10 persons. Development since 2003 shows the number of medium-sized companies (with 10 to 500 workers) is slowly increasing, the number of very small companies is slowly decreasing and the number of very large companies is quite stable.

The only exception to this trend is Germany - here 7.2 per cent of companies employ more than 500 people, 19 per cent employ between 50 and 500, 5.8 per cent employ between 10 and 50 and 68 per cent employ less than 10.

Breakdown by country - In national terms, an increase in the number of companies between 2006 and 2008 has been seen in almost all countries except for Austria, Hungary and Poland, where the situation remained the same. The Czech Republic and Luxembourg both saw decreases.

The most significant growth was seen in the Netherlands, where the number of companies doubled, the UK (+47 per cent), France (+30 per cent), Finland (+29 per cent), Spain (+19 per cent), Italy (+14 per cent) and Norway (+11 per cent). Most of these spectacular increases have to be treated cautiously, however, as they partly result in an underestimation of previous figures (the Netherlands and France) or in a review of the calculation system (the UK and Finland).

The people

Employment - In 2008, more than 3.75 million people were employed in the cleaning industry, as opposed to 3.57 million in 2006. This represents an increase of five per cent over two years (2006-2008), thus an average growth of 2.5 per cent per year, while the EU-27 employment growth in these two years (2006-2008) was limited to a growth of 1.8 per cent and one per cent.

Germany remains by far the biggest employer in absolute figures, at 23 per cent of the total workforce, followed by Spain, the UK, France and Italy. In fact 70 per cent of the total workforce of the cleaning industry is employed in these five countries.

Nature of work - Part-time work remains the most frequent form of employment in the industry and covers 70 per cent of the workforce. Finland is one of the examples where full-time work has increasingly taken over from part-time work. In 2001, part-time work accounted for 60 per cent and steadily decreased over the years to the level of only 33 per cent in 2008. Together with Poland (30 per cent) the two countries have the lowest levels of part-time work in Europe.

As a result of the level of part-time work, the average duration of work in the cleaning industry is relatively low.  It is estimated, on average, at 23 hours per week.

Women still constitute the majority of the workforce in the sector - on average 75 per cent of the total number of employees. Some decreases were seen however - in Norway, Finland, Luxembourg, France, the Czech Republic and Belgium.

The full EFCI survey offers detailed analysis of all these figures, as well as covering subjects such as productivity, work organisation, gender aspects and ethnic minorities.

It can be purchased now for 150 euros by contacting the EFCI in Brussels.


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