Lower hours worked is one of the forms in which the
benefits of productivity growth have been shared by people. In recent years,
governments of several OECD countries have also pursued policies to make it easier for
parents to reconcile work and family life, and some of these policies have tended to
reduce working time.
The average number of hours worked per year is
calculated as the total numbers of hours actually worked over the year divided by the
average number of people in employment. The data cover employees and self-employed
workers; they include both full-time and part-time employment.
Employment is generally measured through household
labour force surveys. In accordance with the ILO Guidelines, employed persons are
defined as those aged 15 years or over who report that they have worked in gainful
employment for at least one hour in the previous week or were temporarily absent from
Estimates of the hours actually worked are based on
national labour force surveys in most countries, while others use establishment
surveys, administrative records or a combination of sources. Actual hours worked
include regular work hours of full-time and part-time workers, over-time (paid and
unpaid), hours worked in additional jobs, and time not worked because of public
holidays, annual paid leave, illness, maternity and parental leave, strikes and labour
disputes, bad weather, economic conditions and several other minor reasons.
National statisticians and the OECD work to ensure
that hours worked data are as comparable as possible. These data are however based on
a range of sources of varying reliability. For example, for a number of EU countries,
data are OECD estimates based on results from the Spring
European Labour Force Survey; these results reflect a single observation
in the year, and have to be supplemented by information from other sources on hours
not worked due to public holidays and annual paid leave. Annual working hours reported
for other countries are provided by national statistical offices and are estimated
using the best available sources. These national data are intended for comparisons of
trends in productivity and labour inputs and are not fully suitable for inter-country
comparisons of the level of hours worked because of differences in their sources and
other uncertainties about their international comparability.
In the large majority of OECD countries, average
hours worked per employed person have fallen over the period from 2000 to 2010.
However, this decline was rather small in most countries, as compared to the
decline in earlier decades. Part of the observed decline in average hours worked
between these two years may reflect business cycle effects.
For the OECD as a whole, the average hours
worked per employed person fell from 1 818 annual hours in 2000 to 1 749 in 2010;
this is equivalent to a reduction of around one and a half hours over a 40-hour
work-week. Annual working hours fell in a majority of countries, increasing only
in Belgium and Greece. Reductions in annual hours worked over this period were
most marked in Chile, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Estonia, where they declined
by over 100 hours, with Korea showing the largest decrease of 319 hours.
Although one should exercise caution when
comparing levels across countries, actual hours worked are significantly above the
OECD average in Korea, Greece, Chile, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland,
Estonia, Turkey and Mexico, and significantly below the OECD average in the
Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom.
The Russian Federation is also significantly above the OECD average with 227 more