Monday, August 28, 2006

Overworked Americans and Underworked Europeans?

If France is the world's top destination, it may be because it is a country of leisure. Surely enough, the French are also in the top 5in terms of vacation weeks taken. But they're not at the very top, Italy is actually the winner in that category. Then, more suspringly to a lot of people, comes Germany.
Here are the results for 2005 (in weeks taken on average):
  1. Italy: 7.9
  2. Germany : 7.8
  3. Netherlands : 7.6
  4. France / Spain: 7.0
  5. Britain : 6.6
(source The Economic Policy Institute, also available here on FP in Pdf)

Can you guess where the U.S. stands? Well, it is way behind with an average of 3.9 weeks taken on average. The only country that takes less time off is.... China. (even the Japanese enjoy more time off with an average of 5.3 weeks actually aken on average).
Not surprisingly, the average American also works more hours than the average European (in any given European country for that matter). The country where people work the leats number of hours on average in Europe is Norway, followed by Germany and France.

Now, the seemingly paradox is that the top two countries having the greatest producty levels (in US$ created per hour) are...well, Norway ($62.66) and France ($ 54.03), followed by Ireland ($48.86) and then, the U.S. ($47.52).
This does not necessarily mean that if you work less, you automatically work better (Germany is behind the US in productivity level), but it certainly means that working more does not make you work more efficiently. It also means that contrary to popular thinking the Americans do not work more efficiently than the French. They just work more....
As to whether that's a good thing, well, it depends what your priorities are. It's up to every society to decide for themselves and there is no moral judgement to make there - one way or the other.

NOTE: No need to say that those results have been largely commented in the French media. they have also been used by French politicians to make their points - but strangely enough, by both sides, those who think the French should work more hours and those who think it is just fine they way it is.


At 10:28, Anonymous dg said...

How are these statistics compiled? There's no way in hell that Japanese workers take an average of 5.3 weeks off every year....


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