Average Working Hours (Statistical Data 2021)

In which countries people work the most hours? Do we work more or less than a hundred years ago? And does working more hours improve productivity?

Average annual working hours for USA, UK, Germany, Japan, and India

Working hours through history

Workers now work 20 to 30 hours less every week than in the 19th century.

Average work hours in developed countries fell from 3,000 hours per year in 1870 to between 1,500 and 2,000 hours per year by 1990.

But this long-term decline in average annual work hours has slowed down in almost all OECD countries, and occasionally reversed itself. Interestingly, the work time in primitive hunter-gatherer societies is much lower than in modern agrarian societies.

PeriodWork hours
Prehistoric (hunter-gatherer societies)4.86 hours per day (from 2.8 to 7.6 h/day)
13th century (adult male peasant, UK)1,620 hours/year
14th century (casual laborer, UK)1,440 hours/year
Middle ages (English worker)2,309 hours/year
1400-1600 (farmer-miner, adult male, UK)1,980 hours/year
1840 (average worker, UK)3,105-3,588 hours/year
1850 (average worker, US)3,150-3,650 hours/year
1987 (average worker, US)1,949 hours/year
1988 (manufacturing workers, UK)1,856 hours/year
working hours from prehistory to today
world annual work hours 1979 vs 2015
world annual work hours
world annual work hours for men and women
world annual work hours for men and women

Working hours by country

Working hours is time spent in productive activities, whether paid or unpaid.

world annual work hours

Working hours in OECD countries

On average, a full-time employee in an OECD country works 37 hours per week.

oecd average work week
oecd annual hours worked

Working hours in EU

On average, a full-time employee in the European Union works 37.1 hours per week (main job). In 2019, the longest working hours are reported in Romania (40.5 hours per week) and Bulgaria (40.4 hours per week). The statistics also show that in Belgium, the number of working hours for employees was 39.1 hours per week, while it was 52.8 for self-employed.

The data were gathered for all EU Member States and the United Kingdom, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), and four candidate countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey).

By EU labor law,, working hours are limited to 48 hours per week, including overtime (if permitted by national law, you may have an agreement with a staff member to work beyond the 48-hour limit).

eu annual hours worked

Working hours in UK

On average, a full-time employee in the United Kingdom works 1,730 hours per year, or 36.04 hours per week.

uk annual hours worked

Working hours in Germany

On average, a full-time employee in Germany works 1,573 hours per year or 32.77 hours per week.

germany annual hours worked

Working hours in US

On average, a full-time employee in the United Stats works 1,801 hours per year, or 37.5 hours per week, which is more than other OECD countries.

For example, Europeans work up to 19 percent fewer hours annually compared to those working in the US. For Americans that's 258 hours extra per year, or about an hour per working day.

usa annual hours worked
weekly hours in USA per industry

Annual working hours by city

1Mumbai2,691 h
2Hanoi2,691 h
3Mexico City2,622 h
4New Delhi2,511 h
5Bogotá2,358 h
6Dubai2,323 h
7Istanbul2,319 h
8Seoul2,307 h
9Manila2,289 h
10Nairobi2,285 h
11Jakarta2,282 h
12Tel Aviv2,264 h
13Doha2,250 h
14Johannesburg2,245 h
15Bangkok2,209 h
16Hong Kong2,171 h
17Taipei2,163 h
18Santiago de Chile2,150 h
19Panama City2,140 h
20Chicago2,124 h
21Kuala Lumpur2,105 h
22Beijing2,096 h
23Athens2,092 h
24Bratislava2,085 h
25New York2,046 h
26Lima2,033 h
27Manama2,031 h
28Riyadh2,013 h
29Miami2,003 h
30London2,003 h
31Los Angeles1,999 h
32Tokyo1,997 h
33Shanghai1,987 h
34Geneva1,975 h
35Sydney1,951 h
36Montreal1,947 h
37Auckland1,920 h
38Milan1,912 h
39Lisbon1,911 h
40Riga1,909 h
41Toronto1,906 h
42Sofia1,901 h
43Zagreb1,898 h
44Ljubljana1,895 h
45Nicosia1,892 h
46São Paulo1,890 h
47Cairo1,888 h
48Kyiv1,888 h
49Warsaw1,884 h
50Stockholm1,866 h
51Budapest1,862 h
52Dublin1,856 h
53Vilnius1,852 h
54Madrid1,851 h
55Tallinn1,841 h
56Munich1,830 h
57Vienna1,822 h
58Brussels1,822 h
59Bucharest1,820 h
60Zurich1,813 h
61Luxembourg1,809 h
62Rio de Janeiro1,807 h
63Prague1,798 h
64St Petersburg1,798 h
65Amsterdam1,794 h
66Berlin1,794 h
67Buenos Aires1,792 h
68Lyon1,788 h
69Oslo1,780 h
70Barcelona1,774 h
71Frankfurt1,773 h
72Helsinki1,750 h
73Moscow1,720 h
74Copenhagen1,712 h
75Paris1,663 h
annual hours cities

Weekdays and paid time-off by country

Workdays and weekends differ by countries.

In most of the world, the workweek is from Monday to Friday, but not everywhere. For example, in muslim-majority countries, workweek is from Sunday to Thursday. Also, some countries work six days per week and some have a 4-day workweek.

workday weekend country

Most of the countries in the world have laws setting the maximum length of the work week, except the United States.

The US is the only industrialized country in the world that has no legally mandated annual leave and does not guarantee its workers paid vacation.

European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year (some even go higher to 25 and even 30 or more days). Australia and New Zealand require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year, and Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off.

In addition to mandated paid annual leave, workers also get paid time off for public holidays. For instance, the US offers none, but most of the rest of the world's rich countries offer at least 6 paid holidays per year (while some countries like Cambodia and Iran offer 27 paid holidays).

In the absence of government standards, 23 percent of Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays. According to government survey data, the average US worker receives only about 10 days of paid vacation and about 6 paid holidays per year - less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world's rich economies

paid vacation time off

Productivity and overtime

A longer working week does not necessarily result in higher levels of productivity.

For example, workers in Mexico have the longest annual shifts on the planet, but their GDP per hour is among the lowest.

As productivity increases, working hours decrease. For example, employees in Denmark have the lowest annual working hours in the world, but their GDP per hour is among the highest.

gdp per hour worked
productivity annual work hours vs gdp per capita

Productivity has been increasing exponentially for more than a century.

An average worker today needs to work a 11h/week to produce as much as one working 40h/week in 1950. But fast productivity growth has not necessarily reduced work time.

Productivity trend: Number of hours per week needed to produce as much as a 40-hour worker in 1950

Overtime is legaly regulated by most countries by a combination of regulations and collective bargaining.

For example, in France, Portugal and Spain the influence of legislation is particularly strong; in Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom collective bargaining is considerably more important.

Regular overtime is both harmful to workers and unproductive. In contrast, statutory hours limits contribute towards enhancing productivity. Reasonable hours limits help to maintain workers' health and thereby their productive capacity. They also function as an incentive for companies to modernize their work organization, including their working time arrangements, and to invest in improving their technology and enhancing the skills of their management and workforces.

For instance, France has introduced a 35-hour working week as a part of a labour law reform in 2000, where time worked after the standard legal limit of 35 hours is considered overtime. But even though the standard hours worked in a week have been lowered to 35, many occupations demand much more. The French bar association (CNB) says that 44% of lawyers in the country worked 55 hours or more a week in 2008.

The problem of long working hours is often linked with low wages, but not in all cases. For example, people who work more used to earn less, but today the trend is reversing. In 1983, the most poorly paid 20 percent of workers were more likely to put in long work hours than the top paid 20 percent. By 2002, the best-paid 20 percent were twice as likely to work long hours as the bottom 20 percent.