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Work Hours Worldwide: A Comparison

Courtesy+of+Endlesswatts%0AWork+hours+vary+from+country+to+country%2C+but+Germany+has+seen+a+recent+decrease+in+their+typical+week.+%0A
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Work Hours Worldwide: A Comparison

Courtesy of Endlesswatts
Work hours vary from country to country, but Germany has seen a recent decrease in their typical week.

Courtesy of Endlesswatts Work hours vary from country to country, but Germany has seen a recent decrease in their typical week.

Courtesy of Endlesswatts Work hours vary from country to country, but Germany has seen a recent decrease in their typical week.

Courtesy of Endlesswatts Work hours vary from country to country, but Germany has seen a recent decrease in their typical week.

Catalina Rao, News Editor

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The perks of having a flexible work schedule are a desire harbored by many, but it has recently become a reality for German workers. The nationwide industrial union, IG Metall, protects the rights of 2.3 million German engineers, and now it has add the option of a twenty-eight-hour work week for up to two years in its list of amenities. The battle for a more relaxed work-play balance was prompted by three twenty-four hour strikes that were orchestrated nationwide at several large engineering firms. Among the companies that relented is Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz.
Although this change seems drastic, plans for more personalized schedules have been in the works for a while. Daimler, as a company, has offered reduced hour options to its employees before the strikes; the only difference is that it is now a recognized privilege. Strangely enough, according to a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2014, the average German worker worked about 1,371 hours per year. That number would suggest that the average German work week has been twenty-six hours long for a while. However, it should be noted that the twenty-eight hour work week helped engineers specifically who may not have been granted such advantages prior due to the necessity of their jobs. In an interview with CNN, Megan Greene, chief economist for Manulife Asset Management, intimated that, “[the decision] sets the standard for [other industries in Germany].” On the flip-side, the same deal grants workers the option to work a forty-hour week to make additional money not included in their typical salary.
While the motives of German workers wanting less work hours are obvious, the engineering firms allowance of this decrease in labor is less clear. It would seem that shortening hours is counter-productive. Labor shortage is not a foreign concept to the German economy, where in January 2018, Germany faced shortage of one million skilled workers. The remedy to this issue included increasing numbers of refugees arriving in Germany.
What initially caused concern now led tech companies such as SAP that are in need of employees to offer jobs to refugees with an education as well. So, labor shortage is an issue, but it evidently can be contained. Another point raised by Südwestmetall, the employee union responsible for the sanctioning of the deal, was that when given the option to make more money, most workers would opt to work longer, which dismisses concerns of a labor shortage. Even so, representatives from Südwestmetall confessed to CNN that the deal would be, “hard to bear for many firms,” for example due to possible decrease in productivity for the firms.
Other countries have followed similar reforms. French where workers were granted the right to disregard their work emails outside of the office to limit intrusion into employee’s leisure time. Compared to the fast-paced economy of America that functions beyond office hours, the French system is desirable, and so far, it has not proven to be unsuccessful as France tied for the twentieth most competitive world economy to round out 2017.
In the U.S., work hours are notoriously long however, they are not the longest. As of the start of 2018 the longest work week worldwide is in Mexico, where the average work week is about forty-three hours, compared to America’s thirty-four work week.
Although the length of works hours seemingly does not correlate to economic proficiency as America’s is significantly more proficient. In Europe, a steady trend of decreasing work hours mirrors that of Germany. In the U.K. the average yearly hour count decreased by twenty-four hours since 2000, and in Hungary the average work week decreased from thirty-nine hours to thirty-three according to The Telegraph. In Asia the opposite occurred. For example, Singapore has maintained the second most competitive economy for six years in a row, and contractually its workers endure a forty-four-hour work week.
The inconsistency of global data provides little insight on what effect the decrease in work week in Germany will have, yet there is nothing that suggests it would have any drastic negative effect. Only time will tell whether decrease in hours will prove to be a worthwhile measure.

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Work Hours Worldwide: A Comparison