Daily Management Review

Americans work longer than Europeans


As shown by a recent study, Americans are more industrious than their European counterparts. They spend more time at work, and in addition, they retire later.

The study calculated the number of hours that Americans and Europeans spend at work. The researchers found out that an average European works 19% less hours than an average American. In numerical terms, this is 258 hours less annually, or nearly one hour less every day. On the other hand, American employees work nearly 25% more than their European counterparts.

Of course, number of working hours differs across countries and regions, says survey of economists Alexander Bick from Arizona State University, Bettina Brueggemann from Ontario McMaster University  and Nicola Fuchs-Schuendeln from the Frankfurt University of Goethe.

The Swiss are closer to the Americans. The Italians, however, lag behind: they work 29% less than Americans. This study was conducted to compare countries by number of working hours per person, not just by level of employment, as the official statistics does. The figures include not just number of working hours per week, but also retirement, holidays, unemployment, as well as other time that people spend away from work.

However, not all the working time is spent correctly. It is also important to assess productivity. It is important to have a reliable way to count number of working hours per person to assess efficiency properly.

Detailed data, which were obtained during the study, may help the researchers understand why Americans spend more time at work than Europeans do, and what factors affect productivity. One of the theories that Americans work more is that they tend to make greater efforts to be repaid later. Thus, some experts believe that the Americans put more effort, since they rely on further promotion, unlike the Europeans.

Taxes also matter. Taxes in the US lower than in Europe. The research suggests that high taxes affect willingness to work more and spend extra hours at job place. Perhaps the key factor is that trade unions and other organizations for protection of workers' rights are stronger in Europe than in the US.

Generous retirement benefits in Europe play a major role. European elderly people prefer to stay at home rather than going to work, unlike the US. People over 65 years in the United States still work as compared to what has been over the past 50 years.

Moreover, withdrawal of the American pension system from traditional schemes and adoption of 401(k) system leads to the fact that the Americans are not always able to understand when it is best to retire.

There’s only one thing clear: the differences between Europeans and Americans is not just a difference of cultures. This confirms the fact that in the early 1970s, according to researches, people in the US and Europe have worked the same number of hours.

source: bloomberg.com