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South Africans work harder than other nations. But is it worth it?

2019-09-30 10:44

Are South Africans working harder than other nations? It looks that way: according to International Labour Organisation data for almost 100 countries, workers in South Africa spend 43 hours a week at work.

That’s nearly a whole extra working day on top of the United Kingdom who work 36 hours a week.

When comparing this to other countries, Qatar has the longest working week, with workers spending an average of 49 hours a week at work. But do we get bang for our buck?

To answer this, a global distributor for engineers, RS Components, has analysed the data to see who is working the most and the least.

According to the data, the average worker across the globe will spend 40 hours a week at their place of work. However, the data also reveals this can vary greatly between nations and continents.

working hours

The nations with the shortest working weeks are predominantly found in Europe and Australasia with the Netherlands working just 32 hours a week. The nations with the shortest and longest working weeks differ by 17 hours - but does their pay match their difference in working hours?



Nations that work the fewest hours on average:

 1. 32 hours: Netherlands

2. 33 hours:  Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda

3.  34 hours:  Denmark, Norway

4. 35  hours: Germany, Georgia, Belarus

5. 36 hours:  Austria, Canada, United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, France


The Netherlands enjoys the best work-life balance, with an average working week consisting of just 32 hours, amounting to under 6.5 hours across five days. This suggests that Dutch companies value quality over quantity when it comes to working hours, and believe efficiency does not come from working extensive hours each day.


Similarly, the UK ranks joint fifth when it comes to the fewest working hours, working the joint fifth fewest hours, with an average working week totalling 36 hours, alongside many other European countries including neighbouring France, Sweden and Austria.

How does South Africa compare?

On the other end of the scale, South Africans, on average, work 43 hours a week, which is nearly a whole working day extra than the United Kingdom. The maximum working week in South Africa is 45 hours - this equates to nine hours a day (excluding lunch breaks).

However, this is not the norm - the normal amount of hours worked is a matter of contractual agreement between the employer and employee.

This is nine hours per day (including a lunch break) if the employee works a five-day week, and eight hours a day (excluding a lunch break) if the employee works more than five days a week. Some employers work a 40-hour week, some even less - it just depends on the company - 45 hours a week is the absolute maximum that employees should work in a week, according to the country's labour laws.

When looking at salary and comparing if more hours equal more money, this is not the case. The average salary in South Africa is R20 855 (£13,894) - considerably less than the average UK salary which is £29,009  despite working on average seven hours more a week than their UK counterparts.

Also, many workers struggle to leave our work in the workplace, with 43% of office workers admitting to checking work emails at home, and almost half staying at the office after hours.


Nations that work the most hours a week, on average:

1. 49 Qatar

2. 48 Myanmar, Mongolia

3. 47 Brunei, Pakistan, Bangladesh

4. 46 China, Malaysia, Mexico

5. 45 Iran, Samoa, Namibia, Turkey





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November 17 2019