Which countries work the most – the average working week around the world

Written by on 16th March 2017
Category: Business, Travel

By Anton Constantinou

Working hours vary from place to place. Many countries are required by law to adopt a set working week, incorporating rest breaks, annual leave and a maximum number of working hours. Economic growth, technology and living standards are all shown to play a role in determining such regulations. Other important factors include overtime and flexitime which are becoming increasingly popular as we move towards a more mobile-ready working environment.

In Sweden, one official recently ruffled feathers by suggesting that the country should offer its employees a paid hour of sex a week, in an effort to boost the local fertility rate. The news comes following a failed six hour workday experiment in Gothenburg, which, while good intentioned, ultimately proved too costly.

Separating the grafters from the shirkers, we’ve drawn up a list of what an average working week looks like around the world:


Turkey: 50 hours per week

Employment in Turkey falls under the jurisdiction of labour and trade union laws, which specify a maximum of 45 hours worked per week. However, the absence of a specific law in place to protect this restriction has made it difficult to regulate. The average working day in Turkey runs from 8:30 – 17:30, Monday to Friday.

Germany: 39.8 hours per week

In Germany works means work. Trawling Facebook and gossiping in the office are both considered socially unacceptable behaviours. That said, Germans receive exceptional worker protections and rarely hang about once home-time hits. More efficiency means shorter average working hours than most countries in Europe.

New Zealand: 42.7 hours per week

New Zealanders place a great importance on work-life balance. Last year alone, the country reached number two overall in an Expat Explorer Survey, scoring highly for job security, career progression and entrepreneurship. Employees typically work Monday to Friday, 8:30 – 17:00, with a half hour break for lunch.

United States: 41.6 hours per week

The U.S. was established on the principle that hard work is rewarded. Good timekeeping is highly appreciated, however many Americans continue to work longer hours in the hope of progressing faster. A traditional 09:00 – 18:00 work pattern includes one hour for lunch and two 15 minute breaks.

Netherlands: 37.5 hours per week

Flexible working is a big thing in the Netherlands. January 2016 saw the introduction of a new Flexible Working Hours Act, giving employees the freedom to work from home. Part-time working is also common. By law, if you work more than 5.5 hours in the Netherlands you’re entitled to a 30 minute (unpaid) break.

United Kingdom: 42.1 hours per week

We Brits value our personal space and humour, and that’s reflected in the way we interact with each other at work. We’re also obsessed with overtime, evident in the 5 million of us or so who regularly work through lunch. However, working more than 48 hours per week requires one to opt out of a Working Time Directive, as stipulated by law.

France: 38.8 hours per week

As of 2000, a law was put in place to bring down the statutory working week in France from 39 hours to 35 hours. Admittedly the reduction hasn’t quite happened in that way at a national level. However, studies show that French employees still receive above-average leisure time compared to other countries.

Israel: 44.5 hours per week

Israelis tend to take a relaxed attitude towards schedules, preferring to talk about projects rather than get them done quickly. As a result, meetings overrun, and work colleagues often become friends. Under Israeli Law, an official working week is 43 hours, and the first two hours of overtime must be honoured with a 125% wage increase.

Please note: All stats used derive from 2015 figures put forward by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for ‘Average usual weekly hours worked on the main job’.

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