In the United States, we often see a 9-to-5 as the typical office day. Most U.S. workers work an average of 34.4 hours per week.
Around the world, however, many people work longer hours. Cultural attitudes, workplace laws and conventions, and socio-economic factors, among other factors, influence how many hours employees are expected to work. Additionally, some people need to work long hours to put food on their table and provide for their families' needs. The hardest working countries in the world are not always the wealthiest countries.
It's also important to note that countries with shorter workweeks do not necessarily make lower annual wages than those who work longer hours. This is the case in Europe, where the average worker in the Netherlands makes $54,262 annually, working 37.3 hours per week. The average worker in Portugal makes $25,487 working 40.7 hours per week.
While several European countries work less than 40 hours per week on average, that is not the case or feasible in other countries worldwide. In the United States, many full-time employees struggle with work-life balance and often pass up vacation time to get more done in the office. However, American workers may be surprised at the average number of hours workers put in in other countries every week.
The people of Mexico work much harder than their neighbors in the U.S. Mexican workers clock in 2,148 hours per year at work. Although Mexico has labor laws that limit the workweek to 48 hours per week, it is rarely enforced because of high unemployment and low pay.
2. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the second-hardest-working country in the world, working an average of 2,121 hours per year. Because of a high poverty rate and a relatively high unemployment rate, Costa Ricans work very long hours to provide for themselves and their families. However, the number of hours worked had decreased from 2016, when workers clocked in 2,204.7 hours in a year – the highest number of any countries in recent years.
3. South Korea
South Koreans work about 1,993 hours in a year. Since 2015, this number has gradually decreased from 2,083 hours, partially thanks to the government passing a law requiring the workforce to take time off. The law resulted from declining birth rates and productivity and is intended to give people time to start families, improve living standards, and create more jobs.
In a year, the average Russian worker will put in 1,972 hours into work. Because overtime work in Russia is strictly capped, very few workers go beyond 50 hours per week. Russian labor laws also grant 28 days of paid vacation in addition to public holidays. Despite this, Russia still clocks in over 200 hours more than the United States because there are so few part-time workers (about 5% of employees work part-time).
Greece is the second-hardest working country in Europe, behind Russia at an average of 1,956 hours per year. In 2015, Greece defaulted on its debt, missing a payment of €1.6 billion, due in part to the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, Greece's weaknesses in its economic structure, and huge losses of tax revenues due to systematic tax evasion. This caused the unemployment rate to rise very quickly. The unemployment rate in Greece is still relatively high, at 16.4%, causing employees to work longer hours.
On average, Chilean workers clock in about 1,941 hours per year, about 155 more than American workers. Despite a legal limit of 45 hours per week, about 16% of all workers work more than 50 hours a week. Chile suffers from very high social inequality, with the wealthiest 20% of the population bringing in about $31,000 per year and the bottom 20% taking home about $2,400 per year.
In Israel, workers put in about 1,910.13 hours per year into their jobs. Israel has a large number of very skilled people in employment who work hard in their jobs. As one of the most innovative countries globally, Israel has a large pool of STEM and research and development talent and ranks second globally intensity of R&D. Israel also has a huge pool of entrepreneurial talent.
The Polish work about 1,792 hours per year. While the average workweek is 40 hours, about 10% of working men work over 50 hours per week. Annual wages are relatively low in Poland, around $29,109 per year.
Tied with Poland, workers in the Czech Republic work an average of 1,792 hours per year. The Czech Republic's average workweek is 40.3 hours, with about 5.7% of employees working over 50 hours per week. The average annual wages in the Czech Republic are about $26,962.
10. United States
The United States is the tenth-hardest-working country in the world. The U.S. worker averages 1,786 hours per year, just below Poland and the Czech Republic. American workers are not guaranteed paid sick leave or paid maternity leave, unlike their European counterparts. Workers in the mining and logging industries work the longest hours in the U.S., about 44 hours per week.