The hardest working countries on the planet are not necessarily the richest or healthiest nations. In many countries, it’s a necessity for people to work long hours to stay employed or put food on the table. Socio-economic factors, cultural attitudes, and other factors also influence how many hours businesses expect their employees or contractors to work. Here we are going to take a look at the top 10 hardest working countries according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
These are the hardest working countries
Just in case you were wondering, the US doesn’t feature among the ten hardest working nations. Workers in the United States spend 1,780 hours working on average every year, which puts it on the 13th spot. Japan is ranked even lower at 20th place with 1,710 hours. That’s quite surprising given the country’s workaholic culture. Germany has the shortest working hours among the OECD countries at 1,356 hours per year.
The OECD analyzed 38 of its member countries based on the average hours worked per employee in each country. The organization defines the average annual hours as the total number of hours worked in a year divided by the average number of working people. Here are the ten hardest working countries:
The Portuguese work 1,863 hours per year on average. It is a developed nation with per-capita GDP of $32,554. The Portuguese economy has suffered a severe recession in recent years. The country has a high unemployment rate of about 15%. It is one of the world’s largest wine exporters.
This small country in the Baltic region has a population of only about 2 million, but it has some of the hardest working people in the world. They work 10 hours a day or more on average. According to the OECD, people in Latvia work an average of 1,875 hours per year. Unemployment in Latvia skyrocketed to above 20% in 2010. Fortunately, its economy has stabilized since then and unemployment has fallen below 10%.
Israel has the fifth highest number of highly skilled people in employment. Though the average annual hours worked has been declining in recent years, Israel is still one of the world’s hardest working countries at 1,885 hours per year. About 16% workers tend to work very long hours, which is above the OECD average of 13%. Israel is also home to the world’s second largest startup ecosystem after the United States.
Polish workers are synonymous with hard work. They work 1,895 hours per year on average. Poland has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe at just 5.7%. Thanks to a strong domestic market and low debt, it was the only European country to avoid the 2008 economic crisis. Since the opening of the European Union labor market in 2004, millions of Polish workers emigrated to the UK, Germany and other countries for jobs. As a result, unemployment went down and average wages for workers went up in Poland.
According to the OECD, Chilean workers spend 1,954 hours working on average. About 16% workers end up working more than 50 hours a week despite the legal limit of 45 hours per week. The Chileans work about 174 hours more per year than their American counterparts. Chile suffers from massive social inequality. The wealthiest 20% earn $31,000 per year while the bottom 20% take home only about 2,400 per year.
Russian workers spend 1,980 hours per year working. Several decades ago when Russia was the Soviet Union, the rulers had launched a series of initiatives to promote hard work. Russia employs one of the highest number of physicians per 1,000 people. The country has strict overtime laws that grant all workers 28 days of paid vacation. Very few people end up working more than 50 hours a week.
Greece is by far the hardest working country in Europe at an average of 2,018 hours per year. That’s about 50% higher than the German average of 1,363 hours per year. However, Greece is struggling with a debt crisis, which has pushed up unemployment rate to 21.7%. Youth unemployment was as high as 42.3% in March 2018.
3- South Korea
South Korea is one of the most technologically and economically advanced countries in Asia. For decades, the long working hours had been part of its drive to boost economic growth. South Koreans work an average of 2,024 hours per year. It resulted in low birth rates and declining productivity. So, the South Korean government last year passed a law to give its workforce the “right to rest.” Even though large corporations have opposed the new law, the government has enforced it efficiently to improve the living standards, birth rates, productivity, and create more jobs.
2- Costa Rica
Don’t be surprised to see Costa Rica near the top of this list. The Central American nation is a relaxing paradise and is often ranked among the world’s happiest countries. But Costa Ricans are also incredibly hard-working, spending 2,179 hours at work per year on average. About 20% of its population still lives below the poverty line. Costa Rica has a relatively high unemployment rate of 8.2%.
Mexicans work much harder than their American counterparts. Workers in the country spend 2,257 hours per year at work. The country has laws in place limiting the workweek to 48 hours. But it’s rarely enforced due to high unemployment, low pay, and lax labor laws. Mexico is also one of the most obese countries on the planet because of their unhealthy eating habits.
According to the OECD, the average working hours have been declining in almost all the member countries. For instance, workers in Hungary used to work 2,033 hours a year in 2000, which has declined to 1,740 hours in 2017. It’s worth pointing out that the number of hours worked doesn’t always equate to high productivity. Germans work 1,356 hours per year compared to 1,681 hours for the United Kingdom. But German workers are 27% more productive than their UK counterparts.