Average Working Hours (Statistical Data 2021)

gdp per hour worked

Experts reveal the ideal number of hours you should work each week

The internet has made the line between work and home blurrier than ever, and it’s only getting worse. The classic 1817 refrain of “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” no longer holds up for everyone. Even the classic breakdown of week and weekend is falling by the wayside. There’s never been a better time to think seriously about how many hours you should actually be working each week — especially as burnout becomes a bigger issue among Millenials and the entire workforce.

The Swedish government tried cutting workdays to six hours to increase productivity, and it seemed to work. Some Singaporean companies purposefully end the workday at 3:30 pm so employees to enjoy cultural activities in the afternoon.

Inverse asked a sociologist, a management professor, and an economist for the inside scoop on the perfect workweek. Our reporting reveals an inconvenient truth: The ideal workweek might not exist.

Working hours by country

world annual work hours

Working hours in OECD countries

oecd average work week

oecd annual hours worked

Working hours in EU

On average, a full-time employee in the European Union works 37.1 hours per week (main job). In 2019, the longest working hours are reported in Romania (40.5 hours per week) and Bulgaria (40.4 hours per week). The statistics also show that in Belgium, the number of working hours for employees was 39.1 hours per week, while it was 52.8 for self-employed.

The data were gathered for all EU Member States and the United Kingdom, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), and four candidate countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey).

By EU labor law,, working hours are limited to 48 hours per week, including overtime (if permitted by national law, you may have an agreement with a staff member to work beyond the 48-hour limit).

eu annual hours worked

Working hours in UK

uk annual hours worked

Working hours in Germany

germany annual hours worked

Working hours in US

For example, Europeans work up to 19 percent fewer hours annually compared to those working in the US. For Americans that’s 258 hours extra per year, or about an hour per working day.

usa annual hours worked

weekly hours in USA per industry

Annual working hours by city

annual hours cities

Weekdays and paid time-off by country

In most of the world, the workweek is from Monday to Friday, but not everywhere. For example, in muslim-majority countries, workweek is from Sunday to Thursday. Also, some countries work six days per week and some have a 4-day workweek.

workday weekend country

European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year (some even go higher to 25 and even 30 or more days). Australia and New Zealand require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year, and Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off.

In addition to mandated paid annual leave, workers also get paid time off for public holidays. For instance, the US offers none, but most of the rest of the world’s rich countries offer at least 6 paid holidays per year (while some countries like Cambodia and Iran offer 27 paid holidays).

In the absence of government standards, 23 percent of Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays. According to government survey data, the average US worker receives only about 10 days of paid vacation and about 6 paid holidays per year – less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world’s rich economies

paid vacation time off

The pandemic complicated an already complex workload

If teachers were already noticing heavier workloads over the years, the pandemic exacerbated the challenge of not having enough time to get everything done within set work hours, teachers said.

Karen Lyon, a transitional kindergarten teacher at DeVargas Elementary School in San Jose, Calif., had to make her own lesson plans for remote instruction during the start of the pandemic, but also had to draft instructional guides for parents to be able to help their children learn at home.

Afia Lewis, a 6th grade math teacher at Ardmore Avenue Elementary School in Lansdowne, Pa., was overseeing younger students recently when a kindergartner pushed another student off a bench. When Lewis asked why she did that, the student said their peer “tried to share food and it’s COVID and it can make me sick so I just tried to get it away from me because I didn’t want to die.”

In another instance, Lewis was trying to teach an introduction to algebra. When she checked in with her students at the start of the class, one confided they were scared because of the fighting in Ukraine. The student didn’t know Ukraine is in Eastern Europe, and far from the United States. So the class briefly veered into a geography lesson and discussion of what the war means for the U.S.

Shifts between remote and in-person learning and the lack of substitutes to cover for teacher vacancies took away crucial hours needed for lesson planning, one of the things teachers wish they had more time for. And when teachers took time off for illness or other reasons, leaving another teacher to switch gears, it often led to feelings of guilt.

Support for teachers involves logistical changes

While teachers hope for more pay that fully takes into account the labor they perform each day and week, they argue that there are also strategies that can be put in place to help manage all the responsibilities that can’t be shrugged away.

Lyon from California once had access to support teachers in the district who would go to different schools to model lessons and share lesson plans and ideas for how to teach specific classes. That helped to shave time off teachers’ prep work in a collaborative way. But thanks to budget cuts, she said, that support and time for collaboration has ended.

The Lewis and Clark Montessori public school in Damascus, Ore., switched to a four-day school week this school year, said middle school teacher Caitlin Spanjer. So while the workload hasn’t gone down, it’s more manageable because of the time Spanjer has on Fridays to get it all done, including handling parent and professional development emails, lesson planning, and more.

In the five-day workweek, if Spanjer attends a six-hour professional-development training on a Saturday, her weekend is cut short without giving her time to either rest or catch up on work for the week ahead. In a four-day workweek, attending that training feels more manageable.