cubicle workers in a 40-hour environment

End of Another 40-Hour Work Week

According to the BBC, the tiny nation of Gambia has shortened the work week to four days, making Friday a day of rest. Of course, workers still log 40 hours per week, they just do it in four days. And where are we, by comparison?

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the average U.S. citizen works 1,695 hours in a year. Assuming that same average person gets two weeks holiday, he’s working about 34 hours per week. By contrast, a 40-hour workweek racks up 2,000 hours in one year (again, assuming two weeks holiday). That’s approximately equal to the hours worked by the average Greek citizen – and last time I checked, they weren’t particularly happy with their lot in life.

Or, suppose you swim in the vast sea of salaried, American, white-collar, cubical workers, clocking in the 40-hour minimum and working an extra five hours, on average, per week – just to be noticed. That would put you at 2,250 hours per year (assuming two weeks holiday), slightly above South Korea at 2,193. And South Korea logs the most work hours per week of any of the reporting countries. Congratulations! You are now in first place.

You see, most European countries don’t have a 40-hour standard. For example, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, and Denmark round out the five shortest average work years, with the Netherlands leading this pack of slackers at a mere 1,377 work hours per year, on average. Assuming 50 weeks of work, that’s less than 28 hours per week. Think of it… 28 hours could be logged by the average salaried, American, white-collar, cubical worker in LESS THAN THREE DAYS.

And where do we rank in pay? Well, according to the International Labour Organization, the average monthly salary among the 72 benchmark countries studied is $1,480. (Average world wages are reported in Purchasing Power Parity Dollars, to level the playing field.) That’s just under $18,000 per year. By contrast, the average American earns $3,263 per month, or just above $39,000 per year. In fact only Luxembourg, Norway, and Austria top the United States (and those three countries’ workers also average 150 fewer work hours that their U.S. counterparts).

So thank God it’s Friday, as they say. And thank God you live in the United States (if you do), where the average work week is shorter than the reported median, and the wages are more than twice the reported median. Of the more-than 7 Billion people inhabiting this planet, you’re clearly one of the lucky ones.