For many people in the United States, the first Monday in September represents the end of summer – autumn is approaching as work and school schedules return to normal.
Labor Day was created to honour the labour movement and the collective power of workers.
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As it turns out – though often criticised by Europeans as being slavishly tied to their jobs – Americans truly have something to be thankful for on this federal holiday.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the average amount of time actually worked by an employed person in the US is just 37 hours per week.
That is substantially less than the world leaders in a key work metric.
In Qatar, the average is 49 hours per week – meaning work days that are 3.4 hours longer than those in the country which logs the least hours. The bulk of the workforce in the Gulf country is from South Asia.
Since July, the ILO updated the figure for Mongolia from 48 to 50, making it the highest internationally. Gambia and the United Arab Emirates show even higher numbers, but their ILO data is not current.
All data is based on 2017 and 2018, except for the totals for China, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, where the most recent information was from 2016.
The average in Myanmar is 48 hours per week, with Pakistan and Bangladesh averaging 47 hours. China, Malaysia and Mexico average 46 hours per week, while Iran and Turkey average 45.
Sri Lanka, Egypt, Algeria and Colombia are close behind at 44 hours per week. South Korea and Jamaica average 43 per work week.
‘Quality over quantity’
At the other extreme, workers in the Netherlands spend an average of just 32 hours working per week – even if higher productivity figures in such industrious countries often account for the seemingly minuscule quantity of time put in at the office.
“This suggests that Dutch companies value quality over quantity when it comes to working hours, and believe efficiency does not come from working extensive hours each day,” said the press release accompanying data collated by RS Components, a UK-based electrical equipment supplier that analysed the global labour landscape to gain a better perspective on who is working the most – and least.
Many of the nations with the shortest work weeks are found in Europe – and Australasia.
But the ILO says that the average worker around the globe does, in fact, clock in at 40 hours per week.
People in Australia and New Zealand work just 33 hours a week on average. The United Kingdom was tied with France, Sweden, Israel and Canada at 36 hours per week.
“Decent working time is a crucial part of decent work,” said the ILO in a description of the data. “Statistics on hours of work are essential to assess working conditions of employed persons.”
So for those Americans – and Canadians – there is something extra to celebrate while barbecuing on Monday, beyond just their strong work ethic.
Even if they miss out on International Workers’ Day, which is observed around the world in the spring, North Americans can rest assured that their work week is comparatively not that long.
And this week – due to Labor Day festivities – will be even shorter.