Long work hours don’t ensure high productivity


In Luxembourg, people work for only 29 hours per week, and the country has the highest productivity of £51.80 per person per hour. Find out about the most productive countries with minimum working hours.

Hard work pays, but smart work pays even more. If people work dedicatedly in the scheduled hours, productivity is bound to increase. In India, people have the tendency to work long hours, but with minimum productivity.

Compare this to some of the most productive countries in the world, which have the shortest working weeks.

In Luxembourg, people work for only 29 hours per week, and the country has the highest productivity of £51.80 per person per hour. An average Luxembourg citizen earns more than double that of the average UK employee, by working three hours less each week. Also, Luxembourg’s productivity is still rising, showing a four per cent increase even on last year’s winning total.

The Scandinavian country, Norway, puts in even lesser number of hours at work — 27 per week—and its productivity per person per hour is £ 39.72. Norway workers are more than twice as productive, in monetary terms, than those in Israel, Japan, and the UK. Norway’s labour laws are among the most generous in the world, granting workers a minimum of 21 paid vacation days a year and often allowing parents with young children the right to reduce their hours. In addition, maternity leave can extend to 43 weeks at full pay, or 53 weeks at reduced pay.

Next in line is Switzerland, with an average of 30 work hours per week and a productivity of £37.89 per person, per hour. The country, known for its efficiency and the timeliness of its trains, has made it compulsory for all employees (both part time and full time ) to go for a minimum of four weeks’ paid annual leave during every year of service with their employer.

Denmark is the second Scandinavian country to feature in this list with a productivity of £28.87 and an average working hours per week of 27. Denmark has been attracting lot of foreign workers lately. According to a new report from the Confederation of Danish Industry, Dansk Industri, for the first time ever, over 200,000 foreign workers have full-time employment in Denmark. Danish workers have a right to at least five weeks of paid vacation each year. Denmark’s labour laws are based on a concept called ‘flexicurity’ — a unique model in which it’s easy for employers to either hire or fire workers, but workers are also protected by a generous government safety net. Unemployment benefits can last up to two years.

At No. 5 is Iceland, where the average working period is 36 hours a week with a productivity of £27.63. This country, of 330,000 people, has high productivity levels but work–life balance is a concern. Icelanders complain of not having adequate time to spend on personal and leisure activities. Nonetheless, Icelanders have a higher rate of satisfaction for their lives than the average responses surveyed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The US also has a comparatively long working duration of 34 hours a week and the productivity per person per hour is only £25.74. The US is the most productive among the English-speaking countries in the world, followed by Australia, where people put in 32 hours a week at work and have productivity of £25.47.

Among the Asian countries, Japan has the highest productivity level of £17.21 and an average work duration of 32 hours. South Korea has a history of long working hours —40 hours a week and a productivity of £10.61.

India and China do not figure in this list of 36 countries, which includes names, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Russia and Israel.


  1. Information on how these countries achieve more productivity with less working hours could have been interesting – technology, work planning, delegation, talent selection, training, Gallup-Q12, work ethics, what???

    What is wrong with the Indian Sub-continent, climate, feudal system forcing work but not inspiring work, Hanuman’s potentials were realised and motivated; Krishna was a smart strategic leader upholding dharma and crushing adharma,

    We have leading examples like Tatas, Infosys, Thermax, Kirloskars, Excel Crop Care, etc known for value systems and inspired leadership, but how about productivity, any global-national benchmark statistics available? Could be interesting to learn of.

    We are engrossed in getting the attendance marked-punched now, leave calculated, shortages in salary-undue deductions, delayed final settlements, inspite of computerisation, not taking accountability for employee delightedness by all concerned in the value chain. It is a given, can happen, and needs to be tolerated. A bit of charity in the canteens employees complaining, distribute diwali mithai employees made to stand in ques alike the national demonetisation exercise the same fuedal pattern, testing national loyalty and approval rating thereby smartly-emotionally managed.

    Do these factors get factored into working long hours and lower productivity, the talent engagement eco-system, ready to pay more of peanuts most of the time.

    Great Statistics, from Great Countries to work with perhaps. We in India are proud of our jugaad innovative systems able to manage created ambiguity, create a problem and solve it by hook or by crook, putting it unofficially, and pride in it.

    Productivity = low input and high output,
    then why high working hours and low productivity.

    Too many statistics and inconclusive unmonitored meetings, expecting too many things same time in an unplanned manner, bosses keeping the team waiting till the boss decides to leave in the evening at no cost of Overtime Payment taking people for granted.

    Tatas way back 1988 or so had an campaign – Encourage Dissent.

    May be 360 deg critique helps organisations improve apart from imposed Q-12 on Managers, making only Managers down the line accountable, but not showing the way.

    May be more people and few jobs makes one complacent, creating sycophants trying to please the boss and the organisation to survive and feed families.

    Time to walk with global benchmarks, while we learn to float the bullet train at the budgetary cost of the whole railway annual budget to run 500 kms only. Paradox between exciting vision and ground priorities, with cost-price escalations and delays down the line to watch for.

    humble regards, any comments?

    hr consultant and leadership coach

  2. Dear Mr. kshantaram,
    True and practical comments. Very difficult to change the bossism from Indian culture.
    It will take at least 50 more years in India to come on the actual professionalism.
    On the name professionalism still many traditional guys are doing unethical task.
    With Regards
    HR Professional

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

nine − four =