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Revealed: these are the countries with the shortest working weeks

The OECD has ranked the countries where people work the fewest hours on average per week

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

Following the pandemic and the rise of WFH, people are finally getting their priorities straight. Work-life balance is more important than ever before, the four-day week is gaining currency and people are continuing to push for remote working.

But some countries have long worked fewer hours than others. Whether due to different working cultures, employment rights or higher wages, some places already have their work-life balance in check.

So, which countries work the least? Well, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has churned through the data to find out. Back in 2020 (using the most recent data available), the OECD put together a ranking based on the average number of hours people work in 38 countries. 

And the country with the shortest working week is… the Netherlands, with the Dutch working an average of 29.5 hours per week. They’re followed by Denmark, whose average is 32.5 hours, and Norway, with 33.6. In other words, if you want a better work-life balance, northern Europe is the place to be.

The average number of hours throughout all the OECD countries was 37 hours, with the UK clocking in at 36.3 and the USA at 38.7. Down the other end of the ranking, the country with the most weekly working hours was Colombia. Colombians apparently work a staggering 47.6 hours on average every week.

Here are the ten countries with the shortest working weeks, according to the OECD:

1. The Netherlands, 29.5 hours

2. Denmark, 32.5 hours

3. Norway, 33.6 hours

4. Switzerland, 34.6 hours

5. Austria, 35.5 hours

= Belgium, 35.5 hours

= Italy, 35.5 hours

8. Ireland, 35.6 hours

9. Sweden, 36 hours

10. Finland, 36.3 hours

You can read the OECD’s full ranking for yourself here.

Got five minutes to spare? Want to tell us what life is like in your city? Take the Time Out Index survey here.

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