The State of the 40-Hour Workweek

Technology has increased work efficiency and decreased working hours around the world. Here's a look at the average number of hours people are working each week.

The Origination

The 40-hour work week is a staple of American working traditions, as much as coffee breaks and water cooler conversation.

It was originally implemented by Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company as a way to protect workers and ensure their productivity.

It's been the gold standard for blue-collar workers since the early 1900s and continues to be the norm today.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics finds the average American worker labors for 44 hours per week, or just over eight hours per day.

How Many Americans Were Employed on a Full-Time Basis?

How do foreigners compare?

But how do other countries measure up? Do Americans work more or less – and more or less efficiently? – than their international counterparts?

In Mexico, the mandatory work week is 48 hours per week, or 2,246 hours per year. There are some loopholes that prevent national law from being fully implemented, however, and some private-sector employees can elect to work longer hours without the benefit of overtime compensation.

South Korean workers clock in for an average or 2,113 hours per year, divided up into five working days.

They enjoy 16 public holidays per year and companies are prohibited by law from making workings toil for more than 16 hours worth of overtime on weekends.

Average Working Time by Country

How the Average American Spends Their Leisure Time

How is time spent?

The US Department of Labor finds that the average man worked 42 minutes longer per day than their female counterparts, with an average work day of 8.2 hours compared to 7.8 hours for women.

The Department of Labor also found women spent more time on housework; 2.6 hours to the average man's 2.1 hours daily.

The average American man works about 44 hours per week and the average American woman works about 41 hours per week.

Overall, the OECD found that men engage in paid work an average of 5.47 hours daily; it's an average of 3.58 hours of paid work daily for women.

Even when we're not working, we're working

Average Hours Worked per day by Gender

Country Men Women
United Kingdom 4.95 3.28
Korea 7.03 4.55
Japan 7.85 3.44
Italy 5.82 3.29
Ireland 5.73 3.28
Germany 4.7 2.88
France 3.89 2.89
Austria 6.08 3.15
Canada 5.6 4.45

Researchers suggest women work no more than 34 hours per week, and men no more than 47 hours per week, for better health.


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