US Workers Top Global Productivity Scales

September 2, 2003 ( - If one is looking for the most productive workers in the world, there is no need to look any further than employees in the United States of America.

Output per US worker in 2002 came in at $60,728, boosted by the use of new information and communication technologies. With the boost in 2002’s numbers, productivity in the US surpassed Europe and Japan in terms of annual output per worker for the first substantial period since World War II, according to a study by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO).

Globally, growth in productivity per person increased from 1.5% during the first half of the 1990s, to nearly 2% in the second half, the study found. Most of this growth was concentrated in industrialized economies as well as in some Asian nations, notably China, India, Pakistan and Thailand. But data shows a decline in total productivity growth in African and Latin American economies.

Hard Working

However, this high level of productivity came at a price, as American employees worked longer hours than their global peers. “Part of the difference in output per worker was due to the fact that Americans worked longer hours than their European counterparts,” the ILO said. “US workers put in an average of 1,825 hours in 2002.” Japanese worked about the same number of hours as Americans, but in major European economies the average ranged from 1,300 to 1,800 hours, the report found.

By comparison, the highest scoring member of the European Union, Belgium, had an output of $54,333. Belgium though joined two other European nations – Norway and France – that beat American workers in productivity per hour.

Tops among the productivity per hour list were the Norwegians, with an output of $38 per hour. Following Norway were workers in:

  • France – $35 per hour
  • Belgium – $34 per hour
  • USA – $32 per hour.

ILO economist Dorothea Schmidt said there are “many, many reasons” why the three countries outscored the United States. “One might be that during the time that these people work, they work more efficiently,” she said. “It might be that the technology they use enables them to be more efficient in this one hour.”

Overall though, the United States’ workers still had the highest levels of productivity, amplified by not only by the widespread use of information and communications technology, but also by more growth of wholesale and retail trade and financial securities utilizing the technology.