The world's hardest working nations

May 9, 2011, 11:26 amCNBC.com

While you may have an idea of the countries that have the strongest 'work ethic,' the results may surprise you.


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Which countries are among the world's busiest and hardest-working nations?

Recently, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) released its 'Society at a Glance' survey, which investigated the number of hours the population of its member countries spent in both paid and unpaid work (defined as working at home or doing volunteer work), as well as how much time people spent in leisure activities.

The report also analysed a number of emerging market countries including India, South Africa and China. While you may have an idea of the countries that have the strongest 'work ethic,' the results may surprise you.

So, which countries are the world's hardest working? Read ahead to find out. (For a related reading, see Inside The World's First Billion-Dollar Home)

10. Slovenia

Average Hours Worked: 8.15


Slovenia rounds out the top 10 in terms of average hours worked among the population of OECD member states, possibly as a result of the fact that Slovenians do three hours and 51 minutes of unpaid work each day, 24 minutes more than the OECD average. Slovenia also has the lowest income inequality in OECD and the ninth - lowest relative income poverty rate at 7.8 percent of its population. Slovenia registered a big fall in infant mortality in the last generation and has the second lowest rate in the OECD of 2.1 per 1,000 live births, just after Luxembourg. But the country is rated in the highest third of the OECD for perceived corruption and the lowest third for confidence in national institutions. (For a related reading, see The World's Most Unique Luxury Hotels)

9. USA

Average Hours Worked: 8.16


According to the OECD the U.S. is only ranked ninth among the hardest working nations. However, at $31,000, the U.S. has the second - highest average household income after taxes and benefits in the OECD, after Luxembourg. But U.S. income is distributed relatively unequally, with both the fourth - highest rate of income inequality and relative poverty (17.3 percent of people are poor compared to an OECD average of 11.1 percent) in the OECD. People in the U.S. have a life expectancy of 77.9 years, lower than the OECD average of 79.3 years, despite having the highest public and private spending on health at 16 percent of GDP, considerably higher than the OECD average of 9 percent. (For a related reading, see The World's Billionaires 2011)

8. New Zealand

Average Hours Worked: 8.18


New Zealand may not be famed for its work ethic, but it actually ranks quite high. Unpaid work in New Zealand accounts for 43 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the third highest in the OECD after Australia (46 percent) and Portugal (53 percent). Along with Israel, Iceland and Turkey, New Zealand is one of only four OECD countries with a fertility rate at 2.14 children per woman, sufficient to replace the population in the coming generation. (For a related reading, see The World's Youngest Billionaires)

7. China

'Average Hours Worked: 8.24


The research also included non-OECD member countries such as China, India, South Africa, and Brazil because all are "enhanced engagement countries" - which means OECD members have opted to forge a more structured and coherent partnership with them. The research states that, at less than an hour, both men and women spend very little time on unpaid work in China, in comparison with other countries, particularly in terms of cooking and cleaning. Meanwhile, at 12.29 births per 1,000 of the population, China has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, equal to France and the United Kingdom. The average birth rate stands at 1.54 children per woman. (For a related reading, see The World's Billionaire Bachelors)

6. Austria

Average Hours Worked: 8.29


At nearly 8 1/2 hours of work per day, Austrians have the sixth - highest total time spent working – both paid and unpaid – in the OECD. (The OECD average is 8 hours.) Austria also has the fifth - lowest unemployment rate in the OECD at 4.8 percent – far lower than the average OECD rate of 8.1 percent. Austria has low income inequality and poverty rates with around 7.2 percent of the population on relatively low income or classed as being in poverty in both cases. (For a related reading, see US Homes Sell For Bargain Prices)

5. Estonia

Average Hours Worked: 8.36


At 8 hours and 36 minutes, Estonians - yes we did say Estonians - have the fifth - highest total work time in the OECD, well over the OECD average of 8 hours and 4 minutes. At 3 hours and 52 minutes, Estonians do the fourth - highest unpaid work time after Turkey, Mexico and Australia, and well above the OECD average of 3 hours and 28 minutes. However, at 14.1 percent , Estonian unemployment is also the third - highest in the OECD, six percentage points above the OECD average of 8.1 percent. (For a related reading, see The World's Richest Royals)

4. Canada

Average Hours Worked: 8.37


Canadians have the second - highest rate of "positive experiences" in the OECD after Iceland - feeling well-rested, being treated with respect, smiling, doing something interesting, and experiencing enjoyment. At the same time, Canadians have above OECD average "negative experiences," such as pain, worry, sadness, stress and depression. Canada has the sixth highest proportion of its population foreign-born in the OECD at 20 percent, nearly double the OECD average of 11.7 percent. (For a related reading, see The World's Billionaires 2011)

3. Portugal

Average Hours Worked: 8.48


While some people might think that the Portuguese live a relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle, they in fact rank among some of the hardest - working in the world. Men do nearly two hours of unpaid work in Portugal, compared to less than an hour in other OECD countries such as Korea and Japan. The amount of time devoted to unpaid work accounts for up to 53 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the country, the highest proportion of all OECD countries, compared to 19 percent of GDP in Korea. Meanwhile, 60 percent of the Portuguese population spends time cooking and cleaning, spending the third largest amount of time on household chores at 110 minutes per day. (For a related reading, see The World's Coolest Jobs)

2. Japan

Average Hours Worked: 9


The second-hardest working nation among OECD member countries will probably come as no surprise to anybody. Japan's adherence to its work ethic is legendary with company employees often competing to stay at work later than their colleagues to achieve promotion in many corporations, where company loyalty is demanded and where a job for life still means life. Japanese people work an average 9 - hour day while the unemployment at 5.3 percent is well below the OECD average of 8.1 percent. (For a related reading, see The World's Youngest Billionaires)

1. Mexico

Average Hours Worked: 9.54


Recently, Richard Hammond of the TV program "Top Gear" managed to upset the Mexican Ambassador to the U.K. by suggesting that Mexicans were "lazy, feckless, flatulent [and] overweight". The OECD's research, however, may go some way to ward redressing the balance by showing that the Mexican people are in fact the hardest working in the world, working a total of nearly 10 hours on average every day. They also have the second-highest level of income inequality and the highest level of relative poverty among OECD countries. (For a related reading, see Inside The World's First Billion-Dollar Home)


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More from CNBC:
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