The average full-time employed American works 8.8 hours per week day – around 2,200 hours a year. Assuming they get a healthy night’s sleep and aren’t chugging away on weekends, that means the average American spends nearly two thirds of his or her waking life working. Simple arithmetic dictates that if you’re unfulfilled on the job, you might be unfulfilled for most of your time on this earth, retirement excepted – and in any case, we’re all retiring much later these days. Fulfillment is not just about making adequate bank for your existential buck; it’s about the confidence that what you’re doing is appealing, encouraging, purposeful, even emotionally rewarding.
Unfortunately, the global standard for work satisfaction doesn’t seem to be very high. According to the latest research from Gallup – a State of the Global Workplace study, which surveyed roughly 180 million employees in 142 countries – the global average of full-time workers who are actually engaged in their jobs was a tiny 13% between 2011-2012. Using detailed criteria assessing everything from employee relations, to recognition for good work, to opportunity for growth and learning, the study sorts workers into three separate categories: Engaged (proud and passionate), unengaged (apathetic and unmotivated) and actively disengaged (apathetic and dissatisfied, prone to spread their dissatisfaction to co-workers).
What does it say about the state of a worker’s life today that even in the Republic of Panama – the most engaged workforce in the world – workers have an engagement rate of only 37%? That means there are two dispirited workers to every spirited worker in the country that represents the very best case scenario internationally.
The United States, at a not-so-close third place, scores an engagement rate of only 30%. Canada’s rate is far below even that with 16% – indicating that just 1 in 7 workers are engaged in the work they do. And some countries can only aspire to even these figures.
These aren’t countries necessarily plagued by terrible work conditions or a stagnant, uncompetitive economy. Some of the disengaged workers, of course, come from flagging or weak economies but many of the least engaged workforces in the world, somewhat counterintuitively, make up the strongest and most vibrant economies. Indeed, the variety of uninspired workforces on this list might at least offer company to your misery, in knowing that workers the world over have empathy for the immortal refrain: Work Sucks.
To be sure, a country’s score depends on more than the literal state of the nation’s workplace. The statistics listed come from an international poll, and with any poll comes the plethora of potential pitfalls in self-reported assessments. Based on a whole basket of non-quantifiable factors like historical experience, cultural norms, and attitudes, it’s perfectly conceivable that some populations have higher expectations for their jobs than others, and will register more dissatisfaction under similar conditions. But that doesn’t make the suffering—ahem—the dissatisfaction, any less real.
We’ve collated Gallup’s international research and ranked the countries into the most ‘bored’ or disengaged workforces, weighted towards the countries with the highest volume of actively disengaged workers and the lowest percentage of engaged workers. So which nations should we extend our sympathies too? Which country collectively sighs the loudest on a Monday morning? Read on, to discover the 10 most bored workforces in the world.
10. Czech Republic: 92% Disengaged Workforce
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Czech Republic has grown into one of the most economically stable post-Communist countries. With a strong financial district and robust tourism, agriculture, steel and pharmaceutical industries, the unemployment rate currently stands at about 8.2%—right around the level of full-time Czech workers reportedly engaged at their workplace. An astounding 92% of Czech workers score as being detached or unhappy with their work life. Both their lower-than-average yearly disposable income and their notably large rich-poor gap might signal a lack of work opportunities, incentives, or room for career growth, despite high employment.
9. Japan: 93 % Disengaged Workforce
Japan is by some measures the fourth, and by others the third largest economy in the world. The average household disposable income is an above-average $24,147 a year, and the unemployment rate currently hovers around 4%. Home to some of the most successful automobile and tech enterprises that brought you Honda Civics, Sony PlayStations and Toshiba Laptops, Japan remains an attractive place of work on the global market and a hub for investors. But only 7% of full-timers on the ground report feeling passionate about their livelihood, with a whopping 69% reportedly sleepwalking through the workweek.
8. Turkey: 93% Disengaged Workforce
Turkey underwent a rapid liberalisation of its economy in the early 80s after relying on strict government planning and top-down controls for decades. While the government still controls “key” sectors like banking and communications, reforms have brought a measure of growth and a somewhat improved life quality for Turkish citizens. Despite success through booming construction, rich agriculture (Turkey is self-sufficient in food production), and strong consumer electronics (about a quarter of European televisions are Turkish), data shows the average Turk works considerably more hours than the global average, while saving less than the global average in yearly disposable income. Like Japan, 93% of Turkish workers fall into the disengaged category, 33% of which regularly act out their dissatisfaction on the job.
7. Iran: 93% Disengaged Workforce
Iranian mineral products compose 80% of the country’s export revenues, but under the management of the Ministry of Petroleum, mining employs less than 1% of the total labour force. Around half of all economic activity in Iran is centrally planned and heavily controlled, and jobs rest mostly in service industries, agriculture and “hard” manufacturing like steel and petrochemicals. The government takes a harsh stance against trade unions, and there’s reportedly widespread corruption combined with non-competitiveness in the large public sector: All this could have something to do with 38% of full-time workers feeling antagonistic towards their jobs. Like Japan and Turkey, only 7% of Iranians report engagement in what they do.
6. China: 94% Disengaged Workforce
By some analyses, China is expected to overtake the United States as world’s largest economy in less than a decade. This would be the crowning achievement of a nation bent on lightning economic growth since the late 70s, through a unique mixture of market liberalization and ironfisted state control. But if there’s anything to be said about that growth, it’s that size isn’t everything. Much suggests that the state of work in urban China has mostly improved for the better, and to be sure, the ubiquitous “Made in China” inscription is a reliable indicator of Chinese employment. But China is also notorious for accounts of harsh and unhealthy work conditions, low wages, struggling rural communities and staggering income inequality, making its score of 6% worker engagement perhaps not so surprising.
5. Iraq: 94% Disengaged Workforce
According to some sources, following the U.S. invasion in 2003 Iraqi unemployment reached an all-time-high of 28%; according to others, that figure was closer to 50%. By 2012, some say the rate had officially dropped to 16%; others say the rate is much, much higher. If anything reliable can be said about Iraq’s work sector, it’s that it remains largely underdeveloped thanks to a history of political instability and the oil industry’s domination of the economy. Inconsistent policy has also caused its otherwise abundant agricultural sector to fall behind, and since 2003 tourism has all but vanished (incredibly, only 165 tourists reportedly visited between 2009 and 2010). Add a sluggish, over-staffed public sector into the mix, and you get 94% of all full-time workers reportedly disillusioned with their jobs, 31% of whom act out their discontent at work.
4. Azerbaijan: 95% Disengaged Workforce
Azerbaijan was one of the first post-Soviet states to declare independence following collapse in 1991, and has since become a major oil-based economy in the Caucasus region between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Its economy today resembles that of many other large oil exporters—trends of high growth in GDP fueled by fuel, undermined by slow progress in other sectors of the economy. Its large public sector keeps employment among the highest of the post-Soviet countries, but its economy lacks varied industries. Despite recent evidence of progress in overall human development, the data indicates only 5% of the full-time labour force feels engaged in their work.
3. Tunisia: 95% Disengaged Workforce
One of the wealthiest countries in Africa, Tunisia has been gradually liberalizing its markets since 1987 to edge away from decades of state controls and fiscal planning. While liberalizing has been steady and resolute, state directives have not been revoked in any sweeping sense, leaving Tunisia with a mix of a rapidly growing educated work force, and a much slower-to-reform public sector. Unlike many of its neighbours, Tunisia has managed to diversify a fair bit beyond oil and petroleum products into sturdy tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and textile industries, and its rating on the Human Development Index has been slowly rising. But fresh out of a massive revolution inspired by, among other things, corruption and a lack of labour unions, 95% of the full-time workforce are not demonstrably passionate or engaged in their work life, 54% of which are actively discouraged.
2. Croatia: 97% Disengaged Workforce
The 2008 financial crisis badly affected Croatia, with its economy contracting heavily and no strong signs of recovery to date. Croatia today has the third highest unemployment rate of EU countries at around 20%, exacerbated by what some experts say is a rigid, uncompetitive labour market. According to a study by the International Labour Organization, hard times since the crisis has led nearly one third of the Croatian labour force to being employed under the table, tax free, meaning a whole new set of problems for the government. The workplace data shows that only 3% of the full-time workforce find themselves proud and engaged on the job.
1. Syria: 100% Disengaged Workforce
Since the tail end of the Arab Spring, Syria has been a serial global news feature, drawing global attention over its brutal civil war. Historically a nondemocratic, lower-middle income country, Syrian workers currently faces a slew of reform issues. For one, their historical independence on oil is a bigger issue than most—in recent years, decreasing reserves has led Syria to become a net importer of oil products, despite its reliance on exporting the resource. Since the civil war, the economy overall has also shrunk by around 35%, and political instability has put a freeze on foreign investment. A shambled state bureaucracy and an underperforming crisis economy explains why 0% of full-time Syrian workers demonstrate work engagement according to the study. 55% score as emotionally disconnected, and 45% report to be negative and potentially hostile towards their jobs.
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