Working hours

There was a really interesting article in the AFR today about working hours. Quoting extensively from Mark Wooden (who among other things, is in charge of the Hilda Survey) it suggests that Australians don’t actually work the longest hours in the world (as is so often quoted because of an OECD survey about working hours).

Because each country has its own methodology for determining working hours, and, in particular, some ask the employees, and some ask the employers, the numbers in different countries just aren’t comparable.

So in Japan, when you ask the employer, you are quoted the standard working hours – 8 hour days, I suppose. And here, when you ask the employee, they quote often quite a big number, because working long hours is becoming a sign of virtue sometimes.

According to Wooden (I couldn’t find an actual paper on his website about this), working hours in Australia for full time employees have actually been reducing in the last few years.

I think that the average masks some nasty trends, though. It depends how you define full-time employees, but compared with the industry I started in 20 years ago, there are people working much longer hours than anyone then, but also an increasing number of people who are happily working 4 days a week, or contracting on and off and spending time at home.

I’d love to be able to find a real comparison; based on my experience of working in London, and E’s experience of doing a lot of travelling to the US on business, I reckon that in comparable jobs, Australians do actually work longer hours. In London, hardly anyone gets in before 9, 10 is sometimes acceptable, and although they work later in the evening, not by as much as they miss in the morning.

But all that is anecdotal, of course.