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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 176.900 cleaning contractors employ 3.32 million employees in Europe, generating a turnover of 64.5 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 2014. The data cover 20 European countries (18 EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland) and, in most cases, refer to figures for the year 2012.

The full survey can be ordered from the EFCI Secretariat (see “publications”).

An important economic force and steady growth

In 2012, the cleaning sector generated a turnover of 64.5 billion Euros This This demonstrates the good recovery of the industry after the most severe global financial and economic crisis between 2008 and 2010 since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, as it represents a net increase of 4.83% over two years (2010-2012), while the EU-27 GDP in 2010-2011 was limited to a growth of 1.6% and decreased by 0.4% in 2011-2012.

On average, the annual turnover growth in the industry over the last 22 years is at 9.1%. 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 66% in 2012.



Increasingly diversified activities – Facility Management

About 49.5% of the 3.32 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 2012, the total number of companies in the sector amounted to more than 176.900 of which about 91.4% had less than 50 employees and only 8.6% more than 50 employees. Over the last ten years, the number of companies has grown almost continuously (except for the period 2008-2010) and has more than doubled.

Constant employment growth

The cleaning industry in Europe is the leading business services sector in terms of employment. In 2012, cleaning contractors employed nearly 3.32 million employees. The industry has been strongly affected by the crisis in terms of employment (in particular on the period 2008-2010), especially because of expenses cuts by (private and public) clients engaged in most countries, which obliged companies to strongly reduce their employee base.

However, on average, the annual employment growth in the industry over the last 22 years is at 4.35%.



A labour-intensive sector

The cleaning industry is a highly labour-intensive sector where about 80% 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 67% 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 73% of women.