Which countries are the most productive? This can seem hard to determine because different industries are more common in certain countries than others. The number of hours worked in a week varies significantly between countries.
GDP (PPP) per hour worked is a measure of a country's productivity, excluding unemployment or hours worked per week. Gross domestic product (GDP) refers to the total monetary value of the goods and services produced within one country. Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a macroeconomic analysis metric used to compare economic productivity and living standards between nations. GDP (PPP) uses nominal GDP adjusted for the relative cost of local goods, services, and inflation rates of the country, rather than using international market exchange rates.
GDP (PPP) per hour worked measures how efficiently labor input, the total hours worked all of the persons engaged in production, is combined with other factors of production and used in the production process. We can refer to GDP (PPP) per hour as productivity per hour. Below are the ten most productive countries and their average work weeks.
Ireland’s productivity per hour is the highest of any country at $99.13. Full-time Irish employees work about 39.7 hours per week. Ireland’s high concentration of multinationals drives its largest productivity gains. Labor productivity grew an average of 4.5% between 2000 and 2016.
Norway’s productivity per hour is $80.83. Norway has the third-lowest average workweek in the world of 38.0 hours per week. Additionally, work-life balance is highly valued, and family is a greater priority than work. Parents are often allowed to leave work early to pick up their kids from school. Norwegians are known for being extremely efficient and task-oriented at work and can shut out their jobs from their lives once the clock hits 4 p.m. (the typical end time of a Norwegian workday)
Switzerland is the third-most productive country. Per hour worked, Swiss workers add $69.26 to the economy. The average workweek for full-time employees is 40.5, and only 0.4% of employees work over 50 hours per week.
Luxembourg’s productivity per hour is $68.36. The average workweek in Luxembourg is about 40 hours. It is believed that the main reason for Luxembourg’s high productivity levels is its financial sector. If Luxembourg were to adopt the Scandinavian work-life balance, it is believed that productivity would increase even more.
Germany, one of the most technologically advanced countries globally, is the fifth-most productive. Germany’s productivity is $66.71 per hour. Productivity is significantly higher in western Germany than in eastern Germany even after unification over three decades ago. Eastern Germany has mainly small and medium-sized enterprises with lower labor productivity, and western Germany has larger competitive firms.
6. United States
The United States comes in at six for productivity with $65.51. American full-time employees work 41.5 hours per week, and about 11.1% of employees work over 50 hours per week. While the U.S. is still the sixth-most productive country per hour, this shows that many Americans live to work instead of work as a means to live.
Denmark is the seventh-most productive country in the world at $64.71 per hour worked. Denmark has the shortest average workweek of just 37.2 hours for full-time employees of the OECD member countries. Denmark will need to continue to grow its worker productivity to keep up with its welfare system and aging population.
France ranks eighth globally. French workers contribute $62.79 to the GDP (PPP) per hour worked. France’s workweeks are the fifth-shortest among OECD countries at 38.9 hours. France’s productivity is about 25% higher than the OECD average and EU averages.
The productivity per hour worked is $61.43 in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has the second-lowest hours worked in an average full-time workweek among OECD countries of 37.3 hours. Productivity is so high in the Netherlands that only 0.4% of employees work over 50 hours per week. The Dutch also have some of the best work-life balance in the world.
Belgian workers contribute $59.65 to Belgium’s GDP (PPP) per hour worked, making Belgium the tenth-most productive country in the world. The average workweek for full-time employees in Belgium is about 38.8 hours. Employees have strong skills and are highly educated, allowing them to enjoy high wages, relatively low inequality, and an excellent work-life balance.