Which Country's Workers Spend the Fewest Hours on the Job?

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Hours On the Job We're not saying they're the laziest -- it could be that they're the most efficient. Whatever the case, if you live in Belgium, you'll work fewer hours on average than if you lived anywhere else in the world. The Belgians work about seven hours per day, while the Mexicans, who work the most, average 10 hours per day.

As a matter of fact, Northern European countries make up seven of the 10 countries where workers are on the job for the shortest amount of time each day. Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Norway and the United Kingdom are also on that "bottom 10" list. South Africa is the only non-European on that list, while France and Italy are also on it.

So says the latest edition of Society at a Glance, which gives an overview of social trends and policy developments in countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Development (OECD).

The United States is No. 9 on the top 10 list of countries where people work the longest -- residents work the average of eight hours per day. Following Mexico as the leader in most hours worked are Japan, Portugal, Canada, Estonia, Austria, China, New Zealand, U.S. and Slovenia. Keep in mind that this is measuring both paid and unpaid work, such as cooking and cleaning in the home.

Most unpaid work is housework. Mexicans do the most, at more than three hours per day, and Koreans do the least, at one hour and 19 minutes per day. Much of this time is spent cooking. Americans spend the least time cooking each day (30 minutes) and Turks the most (74 minutes). The average is around 50 minutes a day cooking.

Shopping also makes up a big part of unpaid work. Most people in OECD countries spend 23 minutes a day shopping, with the French spending the most (32 minutes) and the Koreans spending the least (13 minutes).

The report also attempts to estimate how much unpaid work is worth as a percentage of GDP for the 25 OECD countries for which data are available. It finds that the value of unpaid work is considerable, equivalent to about one-third of GDP in OECD countries, ranging from a low of 19 percent in Korea to a high of 53 percent in Portugal.

The United States has extreme rankings in a number of categories. In addition to spending the lowest amount of time cooking, we also spend the third least amount of time eating per day (one hour 14 minutes). Which is surprising since one third of Americans are obese -- that's the highest rate in the OECD.

Other interesting facts about the United States:

  • At $31,000, the United States has the second-highest household income after taxes and benefits are taken out, after Luxembourg. But U.S. income is distributed relatively unequally, with both the fourth-highest rate of income inequality and relative poverty. (17.3 percent of people in the U.S. are poor, compared to an average of 11.1 percent across the OECD).
  • While the United States is often considered a country of immigrants and 13.7 percent of its population foreign-born, 11 out of 34 OECD countries have a higher foreign-born population share.
  • People in the United States have a life expectancy of 77.9 years, lower than the OECD average of 79.3 years, despite having the highest public and private spending on health at 16 percent of GDP, considerably higher than the OECD average of 9 percent.
  • The United States leads world citizens volunteering time, giving money, and helping strangers. Sixty percent of Americans undertook such activities in the previous month, compared to an average of 39 percent.

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