Americans Add A Week To Their Work Over Past Decade

September 4, 2001 ( Americans continue to put in more hours on the job than any other industrialized nation ? but that doesn't necessarily translate into higher productivity, according to a new study by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The average American added nearly a week to their workweek over the past decade, logging 1,978 hours in 2000 compared with 1,942 hours in 1990, according to the ILO, a UN agency.

According to the report, the average Australian, Canadian, Japanese and Mexican worker put in about 100 hours ? about 2.5 weeks – less than the average American during the year. British and Brazilians worked about 250 hours (over 5 weeks) less per year, while Germans worked nearly 500 hours (about 12.5 weeks) less than Americans.

Until the mid-1990s, Japanese workers led the list of most hours worked.

Only workers in the Republic of Korea and the Czech Republic, both considered “developing” or “in transition,” outdid their American counterparts in clocktime, running up almost 500 hours and 100 hours more, respectively.

Productivity Proof

American productivity has grown considerably faster than most other developed (industrialized) economies since the mid-1990s. Between 1995 and 2000, the average annual labor productivity growth rate in the United States was 2.6%, up from 0.8% in the first half of the decade.

During that same period, labor productivity in the European Union fell from 2.4% to 1.2%. A notable exception within the EU was Ireland, which enjoyed a 7% increase in productivity between 1999 and 2000, and has been a consistently high performance market over the course of the past decade.

American labor productivity outdistanced #2 Belgium by more than $1,500/worker, measured as value added per person employed in 1990 US dollars. The gap between the US and Japan was more than $14,000 per person, while the gap between the US and Canada was nearly $10,000 per person.

Hour Power

When measured as value added per hour worked, those extra US hours worked cut into productivity. By that measure, French and Belgium workers led the world, producing $33.71 and $32.98 of value added per hour worked compared to $32.84 of value added per hour worked in the US.

The report will be issued later this year and is to be discussed by representatives of government, workers and employers at a Global Employment Forum to be held by the ILO at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 1-3, 2001. You can read a summary of the findings at

The ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Founded in 1919, it sets and promotes standards for basic workplace rights, job creation, and occupational safety and health. The ILO is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and has 175 member countries.

– Nevin Adams