We may feel at the end of a hard day’s work that we work longer hours than anyone on the planet; however, there are plenty of societies across the globe where long hours are not only the norm, but are expected. These countries have a long history of hard-working citizens, a history upon which the expectation of long hours is built.
Modern society is founded upon those who work hard, building the foundations upon which their country’s economy can flourish. In the words of Thomas Edison “The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work” and history has shown time and time again that opportunity is there for those who work for it. The countries who've been named the hardest working in the world demonstrate a national work-ethic, upon which their economies flourish.
America may be built upon the hard work of its citizens, but it missed out on the top 10 (ranking at #12 with an average of 1778 hours worked each year per person). In some cases, working long hours does not necessarily equate with a country's economic success. Lower levels of education can slow down productivity, necessitating longer hours, and countries which rely upon manufacturing often require longer, low-paid working hours (whilst those in better-paid roles still work less). Longer working hours can also have negative connotations for society in general; it may indicate a poor work-life balance, and in some cases long hours can mean work is concentrated on a smaller pool of workers, meaning fewer jobs available and higher unemployment.
The following are the top ten hardest-working countries, based on the average number of hours worked per year by their workers…
10 Slovak republic, 1786 hours per annum
Following a 50 year period under the communist rule of the Soviet Union, Slovakians remain hard working, motivated to build the economy of their nation after it achieved independence. Unemployment peaked at 19% back in 1999 and the recession has recently raised unemployment once more to 13.9% - however, those who are employed work long hours. Electrical engineering and car manufacture form the central industry sectors, employing thousands of workers. In addition, Slovakia has capitalised on its central position within Europe to become a trading hub. However, although they may display an impressive work-ethic, Slovakian workers often lack job security. Companies frequently use agencies to employ minimum-wage staff, as workers can be employed on short term contracts of weeks (or even days) allowing easy dismissal without notice. Recently Foxconn was criticised for its treatment of Slovakian workers after it dismissed hundreds of long-term employees.
9 Mexico, 1866 hours per annum
Refuting the ‘Mañana’ nation stereotype, Mexicans are shown to work far harder than their American counterparts. Despite having the 14th largest economy in the world, Mexico’s hard work is often discounted by those who resent immigration from America’s southern neighbour. However, Armando Chacon (a director at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness) claims that Mexicans need to work harder than those in more developed economies due to a lower level of education. He argues that, because the average Mexican has less skills and knowledge than their American counterpart, their time spent working is significantly less productive (revealing that a great number of working hours does not equate to higher yield).
8 Turkey, 1877 hours per annum
Until last year, it was obligatory for schools to read Turkey’s ‘student oath’, which begins: “I’m Turkish, I’m righteous, I’m hardworking”. Although the oath is no longer a required element of the school day, it does highlight the significance that the country places on hard work. Although Turkey has the highest minimum wage represented as a percentage of the country's median wage, the mean graduate pay may only be a little over $10 per hour in the country; but Istanbul (the country’s financial capital) has almost 30 billionaires, proving that not everyone in Turkey works for peanuts. The country’s wealth is mainly found in the northwest and west, and unemployment remains a problem in the east.
7 Estonia, 1879 hours per annum
To quote the ‘visit Estonia’ website: “A typical Estonian would like to portray himself as hard-working, reliable, smart, innovative and friendly”. In addition to hard work, Estonia values the education of its citizens and students are encouraged to begin their careers during their degree. Estonians have maintained a reputation for stoic hard work, even following the rule and collapse of the U.S.S.R. Volunteering is common practice for citizens, in addition to the long hours employed with paid work.
6 Poland, 1939 hours per annum
Strangely, the impressive work ethic of the Poles has caused friction within the UK in past years. Following its EU accession in 2004, Poland was granted access to the free movement of labour policy within Europe (resulting in many Polish workers emigrating to, amongst other countries, the UK and Ireland). Although Polish workers have become synonymous with hard work within the UK, the Polish themselves claim the opposite (arguing that communism has created a lazy nation following a history of limited aspirations under enforced labour). In addition to the UK, Holland has experienced an influx of dedicated Polish workers over the past years (resulting in the creation of the ‘Pole of the Year’ award in the Netherlands).
5 Czech Republic, 1947 hours per annum
You've probably already come across the Czech word for hard work without even knowing it - ‘robota’ (later modified to ‘robot’) was first introduced to us in the 1920s Czech Sci-Fi play ‘R.U.R.’ Although the Czech Republic may be one of the most hardworking on the globe, last year it also featured as the second most negative country (perhaps showing that working long hours is not conducive to a positive attitude). Although Czechs may view themselves as hard working, in a poll carried out back in the 90s they also described themselves as envious, cunning and egotistical (we can only hope that their outlook has improved since!)
4 Hungary, 1961 hours per annum
Hungarians may work long hours, but they remain poorly paid and since the credit-crunch times have become tight for many hard workers. Because many in Hungary do not work (only 55% of the working-age population worked and paid tax in 2012) the burden to support the jobless falls on workers (particularly those who have mortgages to pay, as interests rates sky-rocket). However, in spite of the hardships, the ethos within the country remains strong: work hard and you will succeed. Hungarian workers still have a powerful voice within the country; following the powerful leadership of the late Pal Forgacs, trade unions still fight for the rights of their members (who work long hours and are often discounted by governments as passive groups on which to inflict budget cuts).
3 Russia, 1976 hours per annum
Back when Russia was a communist state, various initiatives (including the Stakhanovite movement on the 30s) promoted hard-work. Although the Soviet Union may no longer exist, its legacy of hard work pervades the country. Among many hard-working professions, the country employs one of the highest number of physicians and healthcare workers per capita of any in the world (although, worryingly, the health of the Russian population has been in decline since the dissolution of the Soviet Union).
2 Chile, 2068 hours per annum
Working conditions in Chile are highly regulated, individuals are able to work 45 hours a week legally (provided they have one 24 hour rest period per week) and many do, in order to take home the maximum number of pesos each day. Back in 2010 the Copiapó mining accident brought 33 of the country’s workers to the world’s attention (as rescue teams battled to save the miners who were trapped underground following a cave-in). After 69 days stuck three miles underground, the miners were rescued; although a third of the rescue costs came from private donations, the government and mine owners footed the rest of the $20 million rescue bill (proving the value we all place on the lives of hard-working citizens).
1 South Korea, 2193 hours per annum
Topping the list, North Korea’s ‘better half’ proves that you don’t need to force your citizens to labour to make them hard-working. For many Koreans working late hours is taken for granted and the government even instituted a five-day, 40 hour initiative back in 2004 in an attempt to lessen the working week for individuals pressured into late nights at the office. However, ten years on, this initiative has had little effect either on the busyness of workers or on their happiness. Perhaps because the same level of productivity has been demanded in spite of the suggested cutbacks in hours, many still chose to work the maximum and beyond in order to meet deadlines and quotas.\
stats via statisticbrain.com