The increasing speed of global communications means that for many professions, it’s possible to connect with colleagues and get work done around the clock, including weekends and holidays. But while you are communicating during business hours with a client on the other side of the globe, for them, it may be the middle of the night.
Working long hours is now a global phenomenon, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development keeps global statistics on the average amounts of paid and unpaid work time.
A Round-the-Clock World
The top ten hardest working countries all average at least eight hours of paid work per day, and none average less than two hours of unpaid work. The United States comes in at No. 7 for 2012, accompanied by Slovak Republic (No. 10), and Estonia (No. 4) in Eastern Europe and Japan (No. 9) and Korea (No. 3) in Asia. Western European countries round out the top twenty, and statistics from countries in the Middle East and Africa are not collected by the OECD for this report.
While high wages are often the result of hard work on a personal level, it’s more complex on a global level. Some of the hardest working countries on the list earn much less than their neighbors who have more leisure time. Income disparities between high earners and low earners—and men and women—persist, despite the average number of hours worked.
The OECD also tracks unpaid work, which includes domestic labor, child and elder care and volunteer work. The prevalence of labor saving devices in the home, and paid child and elder care may bring down the time spent in unpaid labor for some countries. Another factor, is that most employees, have attended an accredited online college, to further their career.
Japan is well known for its worker culture, which promotes a deep commitment to work and developing a reputation for professional excellence. But education experts are increasingly looking toward Korea’s schools for a similar commitment to academic excellence, and it’s clear that this commitment carries over to the working world.
Look South for the Hardest Workers
But for the top two countries, we look not to Asia or Eastern Europe, but south.
Chile is the second hardest working country in the world. Approximately one-sixth of Chilean workers work more than 50 hours per week on average. This work ethic does not narrow the wage gap between Chile’s richest and poorest earners, with the wealthiest fifth earning more than ten times the annual salary of Chile’s poorest workers.
With more than four hours of unpaid work per day and nearly ten hours of paid work, Mexico is home to the world’s hardest workers. The country has benefited from free trade agreements allowing the United States to manufacture goods with lower labor costs. Mexicans work 519 hours more than their immediate neighbor to the north while taking home less than one-fifth of what their neighbors earn.
As of 2012, the average annual salary for Mexican workers is $9,885. The average salary of workers in the USA is $54,450.
The OECD updates their statistics on hours worked regularly, and many countries change places over the years. While Mexico is No. 1 for 2012, even the hardest working country in the world can take a coffee break from that title.