They work harder for the money

A U.N. study finds the United States doesn't crack the top five developed nations for putting in extra long work hours.

By Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Blackberry messages at midnight, taking your laptop to the beach, eating lunch at your desk - you may feel like you're toiling 24/7, but hardworking Americans may not be putting in the most hours.

According to a report released Thursday, the U.S. workforce comes in sixth among developed countries surveyed when it comes to punching out late.

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The International Labor Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency, conducted a study of more than 50 countries and found that 22 percent of the total workforce surveyed (614.2 million people) worked more than 48 hours a week, an amount the ILO defines as excessive.

Among the developed nations covered in the report, ILO found that the countries with the highest percentage of workers putting in a longer than 48-hour workweek are:

  • Japan: 39.3%
  • United Kingdom: 25.7%
  • Israel: 25.5%
  • New Zealand: 23.6%
  • Australia: 20.4%
  • Switzerland: 19.2%
  • United States: 18.1%

Among developing nations surveyed in the report, the highest percentage of workers putting in more than 48 hours are in:

  • Indonesia: 51.2%
  • Peru: 50.9%
  • Republic of Korea: 49.5%
  • Thailand: 46.7%
  • Pakistan: 44.4%
  • Ethiopia: 40%
  • Macao: 39.1%

The expanded workweek for a segment of the working population is due to several factors, ILO researchers wrote, "including the workers' need to work long hours to ensure adequate earnings and the widespread use of overtime by employers to attempt to increase productivity rather than alternative approaches."

Moreover, it found that "[g]enerally, working time laws and policies often have limited influence on actual working hours in developing economies, especially in terms of maximum weekly hours, overtime payments, exceptions and exemptions, and informal employment."

While 40 hours is a standard work week in many countries, many others have longer ones. For instance, 48 hours is the standard in Peru, Thailand, Ethiopia and Pakistan, the ILO found.

In Switzerland, the standard work week is 45 hours, while it's 43 hours in Israel. In the United Kingdom, the law specifies a maximum work week of 48 hours, including overtime, but allows workers and employers to negotiate a longer schedule so long as the average number of hours worked per week does not exceed 48 over a given period, according to an ILO spokesman.

Of all the countries surveyed, France has the shortest standard work week at 35 hours.

The ILO study also found that men in nearly every country studied logged more paid hours on average than women, largely because women worked a greater number of unpaid hours caring for family members and the household. Top of page