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FACT CHECK: Yes, Americans Work Harder Than Everyone Else

By  James Barrett

If you’re like the majority of Americans, the findings of a new study by won’t surprise you a bit: Americans work more than basically everybody else in the world (except South Korea), including our European counterparts. And we work a whole lot more than the French.

The survey of 2,000 Americans published right in time for Labor Day reconfirmed what has been true for decades: Americans work more than the average European and many other first-world countries. In fact, when you add up all those long hours for the year, the average American outworks the average worker in Japan by 137 hours and UK workers by 260 hours, that’s over three and six 40-hour weeks, respectively.

Then you’ve got the French, who famously have the most “generous” labor laws in Europe. The study found that Americans work by average a stunning 500 more hours per year. That’s over twelve 40 hour weeks — or three months.

But does all our work pay off? Well, according to one measure, mostly? A 2014 study by PGi using data from the OECD on the world’s most productive employees (based on the ratio of GDP to hours worked) ranked America third overall. German workers took the top spot and, shockingly, the French came in second.

Jessica Stillman sums up some of the trends of some European countries experimenting with cutting down work weeks, partly motivated by “spreading the work around,” including Sweden and Germany. Some studies, says Stillman, have shown “the diminishing returns of consistently putting in more than 40 hours a week, while some economists (and Google founders) have repeatedly pointed out that with technology doing more and more of the heavy lifting when it comes to productivity, it might be wiser economically and socially (and hey, maybe even spiritually) if we all worked a bit less — say, 30 hours a week.”

But is the hours worked to GDP ratio really an accurate measure of productivity? Economics is a messy science, with all kinds of factors at play, particularly when it comes to America’s complex, small business-heavy, entrepreneurial economy, where sometimes you have to put in a lot of long, hard hours and don’t see the financial gain until years down the line. In other words, that ratio might say we’re third, but I bet many hardworking Americans (including future President of the United States Mike Rowe) would beg to differ.

H/T The NY Post

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