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'Nine-to-five' is dead: a third of British workers now work in the 'five-to-nine' economy - Out of hours working now as valuable as London's economy

04 May 2007

A third of Britain's 30 million employees now work outside traditional working hours (9am to 5pm), according to research commissioned by first direct , the pioneer of 24 hour banking. The research, carried out with the centre for economics and business research (cebr), shows that this five-to-nine (5pm to 9am) economy now contributes £180 billion to the UK economy, equivalent to the total annual economic output of London.

The five-to-nine economy represents people who work at least some of the time between 5pm and 9am - for example in shifts, flexi-time or simply working into the evening. This represents over 8 billion (16%) of all hours spent at work.

A significant driver of this change has been consumers demanding the services they want at times that suit them best. The finance, retail, leisure and services sectors have been at the forefront of embracing non-traditional working hours to meet this consumer demand.

The trend is set to continue. first direct estimates that the five-to-nine economy will more than double by 2027 to £450 billion, with the number of people working non-traditional hours growing to represent 35% of the total workforce.

Capturing information from shift patterns, overtime and flexible working arrangements, the research gives an analysis of the economic output generated outside nine-to-five patterns, and the industry sectors and employees that constitute it.* (See notes to editors.)

Commenting on the findings, Chris Pilling, chief executive of first direct said,

“Our research shows that Britons have embraced the world of the five-to-nine and we are witnessing a huge lifestyle shift. As Britain´s first true 24 hour bank back in 1989, first direct has always recognised that in an on-demand world, consumers expect services available to them when they want and need them, rather than at a time that suits a company. We´ve been open every minute of every day since October 1989, including every Christmas Day.

“People like being able to pay their bills after they´ve finished watching EastEnders and to do the weekly shop after the kids are tucked up in bed.

“British business has faced up to the challenge to deliver services around the clock. As a result, it´s no longer just factory workers and bar staff who work ‘unusual’ hours. We´ve seen a fundamental change in working patterns, with ever-increasing numbers of workers embracing flexi-time, job shares and other innovative working arrangements. With the explosive growth of the internet, the value of the five-to-nine economy will grow yet further.”

first direct is an example of a business that has grown as a result of the five-to-nine economy. Forty per cent of calls made to first direct now take place between 5pm and 9am and the same proportion of the bank´s employees work outside traditional hours.

Who´s working five-to-nine
Type of JobNumber of people who partly work between 5pm and 9amPercentage of people who partly work between 5pm and 9am
Process, plant and machine operatives (eg factory workers, coal miners, construction workers) 1,356,900 58%
Skilled trades (eg plumbers, electricians, carpenters, mechanics) 1,715,964 50%
Personal service occupations (eg hairdresser, travel agents, personal trainers) 844,902 37%
Managers and senior officials (eg senior civil servants, shop managers, company directors) 1,677,204 36%
Elementary occupations (eg postal workers, waiters, bar staff, cleaners, road sweepers) 1,279,605 34%
Associate professional and technical (eg IT technicians, nurses, youth workers, marketing professionals) 1,447,909 32%
Professional occupations (eg engineers, doctors, teachers, architects, lawyers) 931,506 26%
Sales and customer service occupations (eg telesales, market traders, cashiers, sales assistants) 600,065 24%
Administrative and secretarial (eg receptionists, legal secretaries, library assistants, typists) 538,430 12%

The type of job people work will influence whether they are likely to work in the five-to-nine economy.

For office workers, the research shows “office hours” are a thing of the past with over a third (36%) of managers and over a quarter (26%) of professionals working five-to-nine.

Secretaries are the most likely people to work a traditional day with only 12% work outside traditional hours.

The five-to-nine industries
SectorPercentage of hours worked five-to-nineTotal value of five-to-nine working in industry% growth of value of five-to-nine 1998-2006
Banking, finance and insurance 8.7% £35.5 billion 100%
Public administration, education & health 17.9% £35.3 billion 46%
Manufacturing 20.0% £29.0 billion -8%
Retail, distribution, hotels and restaurants 16.0% £27.6 billion 33%
Transport and communication 26.5% £20.0 billion 37%
Energy and water 23.1% £11.3 billion 53%
Construction 13.1% £9.0 billion 69%
Agriculture and fishing 23.3% £2.5 billion 160%

By looking at the development of the five-to-nine economy over the last few years, the research demonstrates a startling shift in the different industries that are fuelling it.

Banking and finance is the biggest sector of the five-to-nine economy, as £35 billion is generated during non-traditional working hours - the value of five-to-nine working in the banking sector has grown faster than any other, doubling between 1998 and 2006.

However, financial services is also the sector in which the smallest percentage of hours is worked outside a traditional nine-to-five day - just 8.7%. Transport and communication has the highest percentage of hours worked outside the norm, at almost 27%.


Media Enquiries to Rob Skinner on 020 7992 1571 or or to Amanda Brown on 0113 276 6700 or

Notes to editors

* The ‘five-to-nine’ economy comprises of economic activity that is generated outside of conventional working hours, between 5pm and 9am. The value of this economic activity in the five-to-nine economy can be quantified in the number of jobs, gross value added and productivity. We have analysed employees in the five-to-nine economy including the relevant:

  • full-time workers
  • part-time workers
  • shift workers
  • those working in excess of 37.5 hours per week.

Sunday/ flexi-time workers were also investigated.

An alternative way of looking at this is to examine which people do actually work a strict nine-five pattern. By definition the rest of the employed population are part of the five-to-nine economy.

first direct
first direct has been the UK´s most recommended bank, and has had the most satisfied customers, for the last 13 years consecutively, according to research from MORI and Research International.

HSBC Holdings plc
first direct is a division of HSBC Bank plc, and a member of the HSBC Group. HSBC Holdings plc serves over 125 million customers worldwide through some 10,000 offices in 82 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. With assets of US$1,861 billion at 31 December 2006, HSBC is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organisations. HSBC is marketed worldwide as 'the world's local bank'.

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