Data Shows Which Countries Have the Longest Working Hours

May, 2022


What countries do you think work the longest hours in the world and which countries work the least? Explain your answer.

Vocabulary list 

• Students read each word followed by the definition, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• The teacher reads the sample sentence and the students repeat, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• After reading the list, students try to make their own example sentences using the words that are new to them. 

• Students share their example sentences and the teacher gives feedback, correcting errors if necessary.

assumption (noun)


something that someone thinks or believes without any real evidence

There is an assumption that people work harder in Northern European countries.


wonder (verb)


to think and want to know about something

I wonder what my parents will do for their 10-year anniversary.


gather (verb)


to collect several things, often from different places or people

I want you to gather everyone together for a meeting.


entire (adjective)


whole or complete, with nothing missing

We have the entire house to ourselves this weekend.


measurement (noun)


a value, discovered by measuring

Can you tell me the measurements of the room.


roughly (adverb)



Both houses are roughly the same size.


halve (verb)


to reduce something by half

The new machines have halved the production costs.

Data Shows Which Countries Have the Longest Working Hours

People often make stereotypical assumptions about how much people work in different countries. You may hear people claim that Mediterranean and Latin countries work the least while Asian and Northern European countries work long hours. But have you ever wondered whether these assumptions are correct or not?

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) gathered data in 2020 that shows how many hours-a-week people in different countries usually work. The data included 35 of the 38 OECD member nations, but there was no information on the usual working weeks in Canada, South Korea or Japan.

According to this data, the Netherlands has the shortest usual working week in the OECD, with the average employee working 29.5 hours a week. The second shortest work week is in Denmark, with 32.5 working hours, followed by Norway with 33.6, Switzerland with 34.6, and Austria, Belgium and Italy with average working weeks of 35.5 hours.

The longest working week in the OECD is in Colombia, with employees usually working 47.6 hours. This is followed by Turkey with 45.6 hours and Mexico with 44.7. However, the results change when looking at the number of hours actually worked over the entire year. According to OECD data, it was people in Germany who actually worked the least hours in 2020 – 1,332 in total, giving an average of just 25.6 hours each week. Using this type of measurement, people in Denmark worked the second least hours, while British people worked third least.

Working hours in the world’s richest countries have decreased significantly in the last 150 years. For example, in 1870, people in places like the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark used to work 60-70 hour weeks — and even 72 hours a week in Belgium. These numbers have now been roughly halved.



1. Generally, people think that Mediterranean and Latin countries work the least amount of hours.



2. Which countries’ work data did the OECD not include?


3. On average, how long was a working week in Italy in 2020?


4. What factor changes the data when measuring the length of time people work in a week?


5. Using both methods of measuring working hours, which country still works the second shortest hours a week on average?


6. For the last 150 years, Northern European countries have always worked less than 40 hours per week.



  • What are your thoughts on the OECD’s data?
  • Does the information surprise you? Why/Why not?
  • How many hours do you usually work each week? Is this normal in your country? Do you think it is too much?
  • Have you ever worked more than 60 hours in a week? Explain what the situation was.
  • Do you know anyone who regularly works very long hours each week?
  • Do you ever have to work overtime? Do you get paid more for your overtime? If not, do you think you should?
  • Do you expect the average working week to become shorter over the next few decades?
  • What would you do with your time if worked less hours each week?
  • Which of the countries mentioned in the article would you like to live and work in, and why?
  • What’s the most stressful job you have had?
    If you could change anything about your current job, what would it be?