The Ten Hardest Working Countries in the World

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The nations with the longest hours are not necessarily the richest or healthiest nations. In many nations, people have to labor long hours to stay employed or put food on the table. Socio-economic factors, cultural attitudes, and other factors also influence how many hours a worker spends away from home.

work hours in a year

The Hardest Working Countries in 2020

Employees in the United States spend 1,780 hours working on average every year, which puts them in the 13th spot. Japan is ranked even lower at 20th place with 1,710 hours. That’s quite surprising given the country’s workaholic and low vacation culture. Germany has the shortest working hours among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD nations at 1,356 hours per year.

The OECD analyzed 38 of its member nations based on the average hours worked per employee in each country. Here are the top ten hardest working countries on earth.

10- Portugal

A Portuguese worker spends 1,863 hours per year on average laboring. The Portuguese economy has suffered a severe recession in recent years. It has of the earth’s largest wine exporting companies, which pour into the nation’s tax revenues.

9- Latvia

This small country in the Baltic region has a population of only about 2 million, but it has some of the busy people on earth: the labor 10 hours a day or more on average. According to the OECD, people in Latvia labor 1,875 hours per year.

8- Israel

Israel has the fifth-highest number of highly skilled people in employment. Though the annual hours worked has been declining in recent years, the nation is still one of the world’s most dynamic countries at 1,885 hours per year. About 16% of Israelis tend to work very long hours, which is above the OECD baseline of 13%. Israel has the second-largest startup ecosystem after the United States.

7- Poland

Polish laborers typically work 1,895 hours each year. Thanks to a robust 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 nations for jobs. As a result, unemployment went down and average wages for both full-time and part-time workers went up in Poland.

6- Chile

According to the OECD, Chilean workers spend 1,954 hours working on average. About 16% of workers end up working more than 50 hours a week despite the legal limit of 45 hours per week. The Chileans labor about 174 hours more per year than their American counterparts. Chile suffers from massive social inequality and a high poverty rate. The wealthiest 20% earn $31,000 a year while the bottom 20% take home only about 2,400.

5- Russia

Russian workers spend 1,980 hours every 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 numbers 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 per week.

4- Greece

Greeks work an average of 2,018 hours each year. That’s about 50% higher than the German standard of 1,363 hours every year. Even though some Germans think of Greeks as lazy and always on vacation, this country is at work the most extended hours out of any EU nation. Additionally, Greece is near the top of all countries in the world in hours a week a worker spends at the office.

3- South Korea

South Korea is one of the most technologically and economically advanced nations in Asia. For decades, the long working hours had been part of its drive to boost economic growth. South Koreans labor approximately 2,024 hours each 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 in Korea have opposed the new vacation law, the government has enforced it efficiently to improve the living standards, births, 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 among the happiest nations on earth. But Costa Ricans are also incredibly hard-working, spending 2,179 hours away from home. About 20% of its population still lives below the poverty line. Costa Rica has a relatively high unemployment rate of 8.2%.

1- Mexico

Mexicans do not spend much time on vacation in places like Mexico City or Cancun and work the longest hours out of any nation, according to the OCED. A worker in Mexico has the most extended hours in the world, spending 2,257 hours at the office each year. Mexico has laws in place, limiting the workweek to 48 hours for employees. But it’s rarely enforced due to high unemployment, low pay, and lax labor laws. Aside from being the hardest working country around the world, Mexico is also one of the most obese countries on the planet because of their unhealthy eating habits.

According to the OECD, the working hours have been declining in almost all the member nations. For instance, workers in Hungary used to labor 2,033 hours a year in 2000, which has fallen to 1,740 hours in 2017. It’s worth pointing out that the number of hours worked doesn’t always equate to higher output. Germans labor 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.


What country has the best work-life balance?

The Netherlands is one of the best places to be a worker on earth. A worker in this European nation typically spends 36-40 hours per week in the office. The country has a generous vacation, overtime work, maternity leave, and sick leave rules due to strong workplace laws.

What is the most laid back country?

Iceland is one of the most peaceful nations in the world as well as one of the most laid back. The Czech Republic and New Zealand also rank high on this list.

What is the average workweek in Europe?

The average workweek in the EU is around 37.1 hours. The amount of work time versus vacation varies significantly across the different EU nations and other companies where a worker is employed.

Who is the hardest working race?

One study found that if you want to find a worker by ethnicity or race, India is one of the best places to search. A worker in India is most likely to be happy working average annual hours.

How many hours per week do Japanese work?

Japanese do not have much time to vacation, spending about 40 hours a week working, which would equate to 9-5 five days a week.

Final Thoughts

With the increase in automation, there is fear that no matter how much humans work, they will be replaced by robots. Humans have a vital role to play in the economy, even for low skilled and straightforward tasks. While luck plays a role in life, hard work will still be critical for the foreseeable future.

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