EFCI annual report - resilience through crisis

21st of December 2021
EFCI annual report - resilience through crisis

EFCI, the organisation representing the cleaning services sector at European level, has published its latest report compiled from data supplied by national associations. It shows that in 2018, the industry grew by eight per cent and the sector employed 4.1 million people. It also demonstrates just how resilient the industry has been throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as it continues to provide essential services.

The EFCI has recently published The Industrial Cleaning Sector in Europe 2021 – Covid-19 Impact Analysis, a report developed by the EFCI in cooperation with its member national associations.

Following the publication of the Trend Report on the evolution of the industry between 1995-2016 in 2019 and EFCI’s Report 2020, this year’s edition is completed with the analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on the industry during 2020. EFCI’s industry reports are a valuable tool for the sector, presenting the main data and trends of the sector at European level, and intend to serve the sector and its stakeholders to better understand its evolution at national and European levels.

This is why the EFCI decided to undertake an in-depth analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on the sector in 2020, when the spread of the pandemic across the continent put our sector in the frontline while contracts were broken or interrupted due to the preventive measures and lockdowns imposed by public authorities. The report shows the resilience, adaptability and maturity of our sector, which continues to provide essential services through the current phase of the pandemic.

In the words of EFCI’s president Juan Diez de los Rios: “While it is still difficult to quantify (specially at European level) what has been the actual repercussion on our sector of this dreadful pandemic and the different containment measures taken by the different national, regional and local governments, we can now state that it has had a strong impact in terms of recognition for the sector.”

The report was presented during EFCI’s online week of seminars which took place in October, under the moderation of ECJ editor Michelle Marshall. It was then analysed by a panel of national experts who presented their own personal experiences regarding Covid-19.

In this regard, Avril McCarthy of the Irish Contract Cleaners Association (ICCA) highlighted wage rate inflation, labour shortages and market changes as the main challenges ahead for the sector in Ireland. As for Germany, Christopher Lück from BIV identified recovering growth, labour shortages, digitalisation and sustainability.

Concerning Italy, Alberto de Rosa from Anip-Confindustria highlighted the main actions carried out by the organisation during the pandemic that contributed to bring visibility to the essential role of the cleaning services.

EFCI’s 2021 report The Industrial Cleaning Sector in Europe 2021 – Covid-19 Impact Analysis

EFCI’s 2021 Industry Report is divided in two sections. The first one provides an overview of the most important indicators that describe the characteristics of the European cleaning industry based on the main industry indicators based on the most recently available Eurostat data (2018).

The second section, The impact of Covid-19 on the Cleaning Industry in Europe provides a qualitative analysis on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the cleaning industry in Europe as well of the effects on companies and employees in some European countries. These results are based on the replies obtained from EFCI members to the questionnaire on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the European cleaning industry conducted by the EFCI during summer 2021.

The cleaning industry in Europe before Covid-19: main indicators

The first part of the report contains insights based on the Eurostat data 2018 and covers the 27 members of the European Union as well as Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Turnover pre-Covid-19

The report presents clear evidence of the resilience that characterised the industry across Europe over the last five years. With steady growth over recent years, the European cleaning industry grew by 16.5 per cent reaching the impressive turnover of almost €130 billion in 2018. The countries that contributed the most to this increase were Germany (+39 per cent), Poland (+34 per cent) and the United Kingdom (+34 per cent).

Number of employees pre-Covid-19

Furthermore, the number of employees within the European cleaning industry has grown annually from 2014 to 2018. From 2017 to 2018, the highest increase of nearly six per cent was achieved, resulting in 4.19 million people employed in the sector. The number of employees increased in Denmark, Latvia and Cyprus, with growth rates of more than 40 per cent over the five years.

Number of firms by workforce size

As per data of 2018, SMEs employ almost half of the employees in the cleaning industry in Europe. Two thirds of the companies in the cleaning industry in Germany, France and Spain employ between two and nine staff, whereas the share of these small enterprises is almost three quarters in Italy. Companies with 10 to 19 employees are more present in France and Spain, representing 15 to16 per cent of all companies compared to 12 to 13 per cent in the other largest countries.

The impact of Covid-19 on the cleaning industry in Europe

On the basis of the replies to a questionnaire conducted during spring and summer 2021, the report presents a first analysis on how the industry responded and adapted to the challenges of Covid-19.

Impact on turnover

As expected, the report shows how the overall turnover in the European cleaning industry decreased due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, mainly due to the decline in number of contracts following cancellations or (temporary) suspensions. In addition, the sector faced a decrease in demand in most European countries due to the mass closure of premises during the lockdowns. In the case of closure of premises, the majority of clients opted for a contract cancellation rather than temporary suspension, which directly hit the cleaning businesses of Europe.

A decrease in turnover is mostly observed in cleaning companies with main contracts/activities in transportation, entertainment, tourism and hospitality (eg, airports, hotels, shopping malls). For example, in France a decrease in turnover of 21 per cent was recorded for companies with major contracts in cleaning of public areas. Cleaning companies with focus in other sectors were able to maintain status quo or increase profit by providing extra services with higher margins to existing customers.

In order to offset the negative consequences of turnover decrease, the majority of cleaning companies expanded their services portfolio by introducing new technologies and/or services. Thankfully, the negative impact on the turnover and number of contracts on cleaning companies operating in the private sector started decreasing through the gradual lockdown exit.

Impact on contracts with public and private sectors

In the majority of countries, the number of contracts with the public sector was not overly affected or even experienced an increase due to a higher demand in certain cleaning services. On the contrary, the number of contracts with the private sector decreased radically in almost all European countries, mostly due to total or partial closure/inactivity of private facilities and institutions.

Personnel measures undertaken due to Covid-19 outbreak

As reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, partial employment measures were introduced in almost all European countries. Companies around Europe also used temporary layoffs and hiring freezes as personnel-related measures during the pandemic, followed by permanent layoffs and mandatory vacation. The highest work reductions (partial employment) were introduced in the beginning of the pandemic in March-May 2020, decreasing towards October.

Changes in working time for cleaning services

Before the pandemic the majority of cleaning activities were concentrated in the early morning and evening. Because of closure or limited working hours of premises due to curfews and lockdowns, the working hours of cleaning staff changed. For example in office facilities, cleaning during working hours became more in demand rather than early morning or evening due to prevention of contamination guaranteeing employees’ safety and wellbeing. In most countries, the working hours in healthcare institutions shifted due to the mandatory daily disinfection regulations.

While faced with a new world of work, with an increase of telework and new working arrangements in the office environment, we are seeing an evolution in the requests by clients. This may have a direct, positive impact, in the shift towards daytime cleaning, the trend towards and increased visibility of cleaning agents and services.

EFCI’s president underlines that: “With over 4,2 million employees, nearly 300,000 companies and €120 billion turnover in 2018, the sector is consolidated as a vector for employment and job creation across Europe. The broad recognition it has received, nevertheless, must now be accompanied by the necessary political and legislative actions to ensure that our sector’s long-standing demands are listened to by both public decision-makers and buyers.

The full report, together with previous editions of EFCI Industry reports, is available on EFCI’s website: www.efci.eu/publications/#reports-and-guides



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