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August 20, 2012



Of course, when those five Tories made the criticisms, they did so during their 47 day holiday.

Milf Hunter

Let's ignore the fact that this is due in part to a lack of demand; there were over one million people working full-time last year who wanted to work longer hours.

Perhaps they mean they want (or need) to earn more money? Who wants to spend more time at work than they have to?


Chris, looking at the graph it appears that all the outliers (US, Norway etc) seem to one side only - there don't seem to be any cases of countries under-performing the expected amount, only cases where countries outperform it.

Do you think this is just a sampling bias (it is the OECD after all) or is there something more fundamental at play?

Account Deleted

As usual, this moralising nonsense is just cover for another attack on the state: "the State, including high taxes and a generous welfare system, had fuelled laziness".

What's interesting is the generalisation that the British en bloc are idlers. Apart from quibbling about whether idling may in fact be a positive contributor to innovation and thus productivity, this failure to discriminate is a bit of a giveaway.

There is no secret that idling (in the pejorative sense used here) is far more extensive among white-collar jobs than blue-collar ones. The traditional tea-break is more honoured in the office than on the factory floor. This means we are structurally condemned to an increase in idleness, due to the long-term change in job composition.

Indeed, if you factor in the degree to which increases in productivity have been offset by the creation of hitherto unnecessary white-collar roles, there is a strong argument to be made that we Brits are actually among the best idlers in the World, not the worst.

Steven Clarke

Nice to see you link to a piece about land use. Land is one of the three factors of production, but it gets left out of economics discussions.

I suspect our planning laws, concentration of land ownership, land hoarding and speculation etc are a big restriction on growth and a source of instability. We need a land value tax to sort it out.


Not to mention there are plenty of working hours not counted in the statistics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/19/britian-labour-figures-hide-real-workload


I don't think those Tories care whether it is true or not - it's part of a narrative for further welfare restrictions and labour de-regulation, isn't it? They have achieved what they wanted - attention for their viewpoint which will not be really challenged by the Mail/Express/Sun etc.


@ Charlesbarry. I wouldn't set much store by that. We're looking at a sample of mostly rich countries. Adding all countries would give us huge nos of points in the bottom right of the chart.


Splendid graph once again. I would have suspected such kind of trend, but not of that amplitude.
In a recent referendum in Switzerland, people rejected a mandatory fifth week of vacation (the result was not even close) on the ground that less working hours would endanger Swiss competitiveness (Switzerland has a trade surplus, and the central bank is buying tons of euros in order not to let the franc appreciate!).
It is interesting to note that such confusion between working time and productivity is supported by the same people who own the capital...


By the way, is there a dot for Switzerland on the graph? (my bet: the one spot on the center, below USA)


I thought we worked long hours whilst the French, Spanish and Italians are all taking long lunches and dozens of public holidays?

I really don't want to work any harder!

gastro george

I remember discussing this with a German customer. The view there was that a person working long hours must by definition be inefficient.


Do you think this is just a sampling bias (it is the OECD after all) or is there something more fundamental at play?


The fundamental reson why everyone works, is to earn a living, "make money".

Productivity is often associated with training/education. In US many workers are welled trained/ educated for the job they do.
The amount of money one "wants to make" depends on ones expected standard of living. If someone wants a high standard of living, he surely wants to "make more money", which often translates to working hard which might imply longer hours

In US people work long productive hours because they want a high standard of living, which they can accoplished by being well trained for the job, and putting in enough hours in the job to help them achieve the life style they desire.

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