Countries Where People Work Least

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5) Belgium
> Average annual hours per person: 1,446
> Average working hours per week: 27.8
> Average wage per hour: $38.90 (5th highest)
> 2011 unemployment rate: 7.2%

In 2011, Belgium’s annual unemployment rate fell to 7.2% from 8.4% in 2010. Not only does the country have an unemployment rate well-below that of the U.S., which had an unemployment rate of 9.1% in 2011, but Belgians also work far less than Americans. Compared to 2008, when employees in Belgium worked 1,469 hours on average, by 2011 they worked 23 hours less. Meanwhile, from 2009 to 2011, the number of part-time workers rose from 18.2% to 18.8% of all employees. Many of those who took these new positions were women, who constituted 79.9% of all part-time employees in 2011. That was more than all but two other countries.

4) Austria
> Average annual hours per person: 1,431
> Average working hours per week: 27.5
> Average wage per hour: $36.63 (6th highest)
> 2011 unemployment rate: 4.2%

Last year, Austria had a 4.2% unemployment rate, nearly half the OECD’s unemployment rate of 8.2%. Despite this low unemployment figure, many workers could not find full-time jobs as 18.9% were part-time employees, more than the OECD’s average of 16.5%. Whereas some Austrians worked few hours, still others did exactly the opposite, as 9.02% of employees worked more than 50 hours a week. Austria has high average wages, at $36.63 per hour — well above the $30.30 per hour in the United States. However, wages only increased an average of 0.3% per year between 2007 and 2011, below the OECD’s average of 0.5%, while the number of hours the average employee worked has fallen by 3.7% during that time.

3) France
> Average annual hours per person: 1,392
> Average working hours per week: 26.8
> Average wage per hour: $34.26 (8th highest)
> 2011 unemployment rate: 9.3%

The average annual hours worked for employees in France has decreased by nearly 100 hours since 1995. The French embrace their leisure hours, devoting an average of 15.33 hours to personal time, the fourth highest of the OECD countries reported. Some argue that French productivity is an issue, and compared to the average of 26 OECD countries reported, French workers spent about 17% less time at work in 2011. Yet, workers earned one of the highest average hourly salaries of the OECD nations, around $34.26 per hour.

2) Netherlands
> Average annual hours per person: 1,336
> Average working hours per week: 25.7
> Average wage per hour: $42.67 (4th highest)
> 2011 unemployment: 4.4%
Workers in the Netherlands enjoy low levels of unemployment, high incomes and one of the smallest proportion of employees working 50 or more hours a week — at only 0.7%. GDP per capita is also third highest among the countries we reviewed. In the OECD report, the Netherlands had the highest reported proportion of part-time workers in 2011 at 37.2%.

1) Germany
> Average annual hours per person: 1,330
> Average working hours per week: 25.6
> Average wage per hour: $35.33 (7th highest)
> 2011 unemployment rate: 6%

Every year since 2007, Germans had the fewest hours worked on average, with a low of 1,296 in 2009. One reason this number was so low is that in 2011 14.7% of all employees were temporary workers, while 22.1% only worked part-time, both above OECD averages. Those in permanent, full-time positions also had significant time for themselves, as only 5.14% of Germans work more than 50 hours a week, less than half the 10.86% of Americans who worked that much in 2011. The average German had 15.31 hours a day to devote to leisure, one of the highest figures among OECD countries. In 2009, the German government introduced a program that allowed companies to cut work weeks for employees, as opposed to firing them, in exchange for the government’s pledge to cover remaining wages.

–By Michael B. Sauter, Alexander E. M. Hess and Lisa Nelson

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