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WORK

The countries with the shortest and longest workweeks in the world: Where does the US rank?

Moves to advance the four-day workweek have picked up speed in recent years but some countries may find it more difficult to apply than others.

Update:
Moves to advance the four-day workweek have picked up speed in recent years but some countries may find it more difficult to apply than others.
ADREES LATIFREUTERS

One of the key demands of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is the move to a 32-hour workweek, down from 40, at no loss of pay. The aim is to create a healthier work and life balance without loss of productivity.

Indeed, companies and governments have been trialling the idea and have seen productivity actually increase. A trial program in Iceland was such an “overwhelming success” that now 86 percent of the nation’s workforce are either now working fewer hours or in the process of reducing their workweek.

This could not yet be implemented in every country in the world, even if nations wanted to enforce it. A combination of culture around work and the demographics of a nation amongst other reasons means there is a wide-range of hours worked by nations around the world.

Data collated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows which countries work the least and which ones work the most.

Shortest amount of time working per week per employed person

  1. Vanuatu: 24.7 hours 
  2. Kiribati: 27.3 hours 
  3. Mozambique: 28.6 hours 
  4. Rwanda: 28.8 hours
  5. Austria: 29.5 hours 

The United States falls roughly in the middle with 36.4 hours worked weekly, which is higher than most of Europe but lower than China and Russia.

Longest amount of time working per week per employed person

  • United Arab Emirates: 52.6 hours
  • Gambia: 50.8 hours
  • Bhutan: 50.7 hours 
  • Lesotho: 49.8 hours
  • Congo: 48.6 hours

Why do people in the United Arab Emirates work so many hours?

The data for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is wildly skewed by the number of migrant workers in the country. Of the 9.1 million population, only 12% are estimated to be UAE nationals with 8 million foreigners. These workers are much more likely to work above and beyond the necessary hours due to exploitation, poor workers rights, and them wanting to send large restitutions back home.

This is evidenced in the data for the ‘excessive working limit’, judged by the ILO to be when people are working more than 49 hours a week. 46% of those working in the UAE fall under this category; in contrast this number is 14% in the US and into single digits in Europe.