The cleaning sector in Europe
The industrial cleaning sector in Europe represents one of the most important service industries and satisfies one of the fundamental needs of our society: hygiene and cleanliness.
In economic and labour terms, industrial cleaning represents one of the most dynamic areas of corporate services. More than 158.000 cleaning contractors employ 3.75 million employees in Europe, generating a turnover of nearly 62 billion Euros.
This presentation is based on the data (statistics or reasonable estimates) collected by the EFCI from its members (national associations representing the sector) in 2010. The data cover 20 European countries (18 EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland) and, in most cases, refer to figures for the year 2006.
The full survey can be ordered from the EFCI Secretariat (see “publications”).
An important economic force and steady growth
In 2008, the cleaning sector generated a turnover of 61.9 billion Euros. This figure shows an increase of 13.9% compared to 2006, while the average GDP growth in Europe over the same period was limited to 2.9%. The sector has recorded an almost continuous growth since 1989, irrespective of the general level of economic activity. The intensity of this growth can be explained by both the nature of the activities and the general economic context.
The sector’s steady and sustainable growth can be explained mainly by the evolution of the market penetration of cleaning companies due to the continuous outsourcing of services. The estimates show that, on average in all European countries, the market penetration increased from 43% in 1989 to 63.8% in 2008.
Increasingly diversified activities – Facility Management
About 48% of the 3.75 million people employed in the sector are devoted chiefly to maintaining and improving a working environment that is clean and pleasant for everyone. However, it should not be forgotten that they also help to ensure the necessary level of hygiene in the food and high-tech industries as well as in hospitals, to quote only three of the most significant examples of specific activities in the cleaning sector.
In fact, the perception of services provided by cleaning companies is very often limited to “office” cleaning. Although that type of activity represents the bulk of the market in Europe, the diversification of activities towards integrated services and facilities management is now a reality in all EU member states: industrial cleaning (including the hygiene of food chains), specialised cleaning services (hospital cleaning, clean rooms, etc.), façade and window-cleaning, cleaning of public transport, cleaning of schools, etc. Taken together, these services represent almost half the sector’s turnover. They all involve the use of sophisticated equipment as well as specific training for employees.
A world of small companies, but with strong market concentration
The cleaning sector is, in terms of quantity, mainly composed of small and very small companies. In 2008, the total number of companies in the sector amounted to more than 158.000 (that is to say 22.4% growth compared to 2006), of which about 90% had less than 50 employees and only 10% more than 50 employees. Over the last ten years, the number of companies has grown continuously and has more than doubled.
Constant employment growth
The cleaning industry in Europe is one of the leading services sectors in terms of employment. In 2008, cleaning contractors employed nearly 3.75 million employees. This translates into an increase of employment by 5% compared with 2006. It is therefore only right to say that the cleaning industry remains amongst the most dynamic industries in terms of job creation.
Over the last ten years, the number of employees in the sector has grown constantly. On average over that period, employment grew by almost 5.4% annually.
A labour-intensive sector
The cleaning industry is a highly labour-intensive sector where about 75% of the total employers’ costs are labour costs. Therefore, the industry is highly sensible to each eventual modification of social legislation having a direct impact on the economic possibilities of cleaning contractors.
Other specificities of the sector
On average at EU level, about 70% of the employees in the sector work on a part-time basis. The other characteristic of the cleaning sector in terms of employment is the preponderance of a female workforce: the sector employs, at European level, about 75% of women.