How Long the Typical Work Week Is Around the World

As economies around the world continue to struggle with the pandemic, one of the major and likely lasting changes is in the area of labor and the workplace.

The coronavirus uprooted workers and forced many to work part time or to work remotely. The virus also altered companies’ philosophy on the workweek, allowing employees more flexibility regarding where they work — at the office or away from it. Going forward, this will make it more difficult to determine how many hours someone is actually working.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2020 data on the typical number of hours worked per week among full-time employees in 35 mostly affluent nations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. We listed these countries from the shortest typical workweek to the longest. 

It is not only companies that determine the length of the workweek. Labor laws vary from nation to nation. Work culture, industry makeup, and joblessness all factor into how much people work, depending on where you live. 

Some countries have mandated the maximum number of hours that someone can work. France passed a law that went into effect in 2000 that lowered the workweek for those working at large companies from 39 hours to 35 hours. The impact of mandated shorter workweek is interesting.

While one study from 2006 published by the International Monetary Fund found that the law limited the choice of workers and dual-job holdings rose, and that some workers moved from large companies to smaller companies where hours were not constrained. Still, polls consistently find French workers to be satisfied and happy with their jobs. (France is among the most popular countries on CSC’s do not travel list.)

In some countries, it takes more working hours to make a living. For some of the nations on this list, the workweek is nearly 50 hours long. Four of the five countries on the list with the longest hours are Latin American nations. (These are countries with the biggest income gaps.)

Meanwhile, in many of the more affluent countries, the average workweek for full-time employees is less than 40 hours. Countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, which have average salaries above $50,000, have among the shortest average workweeks. 

While the range of workweek length among countries on this list is 29.5 hours to 47.6 hours, the average workweek length in the United States is 38.7 hours, ranking 15th highest. The U.S. also has the 14th lowest unemployment rate of any country on the list and the highest average annual wages at $69,392. 

Click here to see how long the typical work week is around the world
Click here to read our detailed methodology

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