Saturday's child works hard for a living

By Jon Boys, Labour Market Economist at the CIPD.

In this blog we ask, who works at the weekend?

1 in 5 of us that work, do so on the weekend but this proportion differs markedly by various characteristics. Most important is the type of job someone does, which is closely related to the industry that they work in. Other differences such as region, age, or qualification largely reflect that different people do different jobs in different places.

Which jobs?

The weekend economy and the weekday economy are two sides of the same coin. For the most part, the majority who work in the week want to spend their money at the weekend primarily on local services.

By local services I mean what economists call non-tradables. These are things that don’t travel well, you can’t export them, and so production and consumption happen at the same time, for example a haircut or a restaurant meal. In short, if you could split the production and consumption then you could have people producing these things on a Monday to Friday and consuming on a Saturday and Sunday. That this is not possible means some people are tied to working weekends. Retail and hospitality feature heavily in the top 10. The cows still need feeding on the weekend and so agricultural jobs also feature highly though in nominal terms this is a small number of people.

Table 1 - Top 10 occupations


% that work on the weekend

Elementary Sales Occupations


Managers and Proprietors in Agriculture Related Services


Hairdressers and Related Services


Managers and Proprietors in Hospitality and Leisure Services


Sales Assistants and Retail Cashiers


Food Preparation and Hospitality Trades


Other Elementary Services Occupations


Sales Supervisors


Managers and Directors in Retail and Wholesale


Elementary Administration Occupations



The occupation that works least at the weekend is childminder and this makes sense. People pay for childcare when working in the week and are free to look after children when at home at the weekend. However, this presents an interesting dilemma of how to classify ‘work’. In the week the childcare is classed as work because it’s part of the market economy where money is exchanged for the service but at the weekend it is seen as home production. Children need looking after 7 days a week and so we can safely assume that the same volume of childcare occurs on a weekend as on a weekday. The ONS have even gone as far as to quantify the value of unpaid housework that occurs in the economy. It’s over £1 trillion and women disproportionately shoulder this burden. This is important because when I looked at weekend working by gender men were more likely to work weekends (22% compared to 19% for women) but really this just means they were more likely to be getting paid for the work they were doing.

In addition to childcare other least likely to work weekends occupations are generally professional office-based jobs; business, IT, legal, finance etc

Table 2 - bottom 10 occupation


% that work on the weekend

Childcare and Related Personal Services


IT and Telecommunications Professionals


Business, Research and Administrative Professionals


Legal Associate Professionals


Information Technology Technicians


Teaching and Educational Professionals


Administrative Occupations: Government and Related Orgs


Business, Finance and Related Associate Professionals


Public Services and Other Associate Professionals


Draughtspersons and Related Architectural Technicians




Did you know there is a Wetherspoons that will host your budget wedding? It’s called The Knights Templar in central London. The reason for this is quite simple. Like other pubs in the same area it does so little trade on a Sunday that it’s closed. A wedding party is a godsend to this business. It is no surprise therefore to see that half as many people work weekends in Central London as the national average. People commute into London to make their money and then out of London at the weekend to spend it. It’s possible that some of those working outside the UK in the reference week were working in countries where the weekend falls on a different day. Throughout the Middle East Sunday to Thursday is typical. This might explain why this category has the largest amount of weekend working.


If you are younger and you are working, you are much more likely to be working at the weekend, for example, 16-year olds with jobs are 3 times more likely than average.

However, young people (which is a technical term broadly defined as those aged 16-24) are much less likely to be in work. Many have lamented the demise of the Saturday job. Young people are working less and taking longer to transition from education into the labour market. In absolute numbers most weekend workers are aged 25 to 60.


Those with the highest level of qualification (NQF Level 4 and above) are half as likely to be working at the weekend (13.4%) as those with no qualifications (27.6%). However, those with more qualifications are more numerous and much more likely to be in work and so the largest category of weekend workers is those with level 4 and above qualifications.

Are we missing anything?

In the excellent book 21st century workforces & workplaces Stephen Bevan and his co-authors note that weekend working is lower than it was 20 years ago despite a perception that it might not be:

“the perception of a rise in unsocial-hours working is likely driven by two factors. One is that unsocial-hours working in production sectors such as manufacturing is much less visible than in consumer services. The second is that new technologies make it harder than ever to draw a clear line between work and home. We live in a time some workers will check and respond to emails outside of normal office hours. This intermittent and casual use is also much more difficult to measure than more formalised arrangements.”

It’s clear that some people will always work weekends, and many may even have a preference. Whether smart phones and increased connectivity are blurring the line between work and home, I think the jury is still out.  Please share your thoughts if you disagree.


I used the Labour Force Survey Oct-Dec 2018 and combined the variables WKSAT and WKSUN for a measure of whether someone worked Saturday or Sunday in the reference week.

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