Economy

This Is the Country Where People Work the Least

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) keeps track of how much time people who live in its member nations get for vacations. It also tracks how long their workweeks are, based on hours. The official name for the research about how much people work each week is called “Hours Worked: Average annual hours actually worked” and is from the OECD Employment Outlook.


In its description of how hours are counted, the OECD explains:

Average annual hours worked is defined as the total number of hours actually worked per year divided by the average number of people in employment per year. Actual hours worked include regular work hours of full-time, part-time and part-year workers, paid and unpaid overtime, hours worked in additional jobs, and exclude time not worked because of public holidays, annual paid leave, own illness, injury and temporary disability, maternity leave, parental leave, schooling or training, slack work for technical or economic reasons, strike or labour dispute, bad weather, compensation leave and other reasons.


Data management company Vantage Technologies examined the OECD data. While workers in the United States had a relatively long workweek at 41.5 hours, it was not as high as the European average at 41.8 hours. The United Kingdom posted the longest workweek among the countries in Europe at 42.3 hours. Most of the countries with very short workweeks were in Scandinavia, as the data shows.

Countries With the Shortest Workweeks

Country Hours
Denmark 37.8
Norway 38.2
Netherlands 38.7
Sweden 39.7
Lithuania 40.1
Finland 40.2
Germany 40.2
Latvia 40.2
France 40.3
Estonia 40.4
Hungary 40.4
Luxembourg 40.4
Spain 40.4
Romania 40.5
Croatia 40.7
Belgium 40.8
Bulgaria 40.9
Italy 41.0
Ireland 41.1
Slovak Republic 41.2
United States 41.5
Europe 41.8
United Kingdom 42.3

Why is the workweek so short in Scandinavia, and particularly Denmark? One theory is that people in the nation prize a work/life balance. Another is that the country has a social safety net that pays most people when they are out of work. Still another is that productivity per hour is high in Denmark, which makes a short workweek a realistic option for companies where total productivity is more important than hours worked. All of these are theories, though, or are only partially proven by facts. So, the answer is that no one knows why for certain.

Click here to see how long the typical workweek is around the world.