How America Works Versus the Rest of the World

If you think you're working too much and getting paid too little, consider that the average Mexican worker puts in about 100 more hours of work each year than the average American, yet only makes the equivalent of $2.63 per hour (Americans average $23.65), or that Koreans, who work almost 600 more hours per year than the average American, still make about $10 less than us per hour. Feel better yet?

The U.S. Department of Labor's A Chartbook of International Labor Comparisons compares 22 labor markets in North American, Asian Pacific and European countries from 1995 to 2005. The chartbook, which was reviewed in June 2007, can be found at, but below is a summary of some of the findings. See how America's labor force compares to its international counterparts, and perhaps you'll gain a new appreciation for your own job situation.

Annual Number of Hours Worked Per Employed Person

In 2005, United States workers recorded working an average of 1804 hours per year, which was on average compared with the other countries surveyed. Norway and Netherlands recorded fewest hours worked with 1360 and 1368, respectively, and Koreans worked the most with 2394 annual hours.

Average Hourly Compensation

It hardly seems fair that the workers who enjoyed the highest hourly rate of compensation in 2005 also worked the fewest hours: Norwegians topped the list, earning an equivalent of $39.14 per hour. Those with the lowest hourly wages were Mexicans, who received the equivalent of $2.63. The hourly rates for the rest of the countries surveyed varied between $5.65 in Hong Kong and $35.47 in Denmark. American workers fell in at $23.65 per hour, just below Canadians, who averaged $23.82 per hour.

Average Annual Growth Rate for Hourly Compensation

Despite having the lowest hourly compensation, hourly pay for Mexican workers actually grew by an average of 4.9 percent per year between 1995 and 2005, the highest rate of the North American countries (the United States' growth rate was 3.3 percent and Canada's was 3.9 percent), and sixth-highest of all the countries surveyed. Taiwan and Singapore's hourly compensation each grew at a rate less than 0.5 percent, and Japan's hourly compensation rate actually declined by 0.8 percent. Both Korea and the U.K. showed the highest average growth rate with an annual 6.4 percent increase.

Unemployment Rates

Germany and France recorded the highest population unemployment rates in 2005 with 11.2 and 9.9 percent, respectively. The U.S. and Australia each had unemployment rates of 5.1 percent. Mexico recorded the lowest rate of unemployment at 3.6 percent; however, Mexico's unemployment was growing at a higher-than-average growth rate of 2.2 percent per year. The U.S. unemployment rate only showed an average annual increase of 1.3 percent, outperforming Ireland and Spain, who shared the top spot with an average unemployment increase of 4.3 percent. Only Japan's unemployment rate was actually declining -- at a rate of 0.2 percent per year.

Educational Level of Adult Population

The United States was second only to Canada in 2005 in the number of adults who have a university-level education: 39 percent of Americans and 45 percent of Canadians hold higher education degrees. Mexico and Portugal had the lowest percentage of university educated adults at 16 and 13 percent, respectively. Mexico and Portugal also had the highest percentage of working adults without an upper secondary education: 75 percent of Mexicans and 77 percent of Portuguese workers were educated below an upper secondary level.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

For further reading about international labor markets and working conditions, you can visit the Department of Labor's Web site,

The information might offer some interesting insight into the lives of workers around the world.

Copyright 2007

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