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Business - Written by on Monday, June 2, 2008 17:54 - 3 Comments

Paul Artiuch
Working harder or working smarter?

A recent OECD report has some interesting and somewhat surprising findings on the amount of time people around the world spend working. For years economists have struggled to pin-point the factors that lead a country to become wealthy. Intuitively a country with advanced technology and hard working people would come out on top.


The OECD numbers, however, show that this linear relationship does not exist. For instance, an average South Korean works almost 1000 hours per year longer than the average Norwegian, while enjoying half the GDP per person. Both countries rank in the top in terms of their use of advanced technologies – Korea might even have a slight edge in terms of internet and mobile adoption. Granted, there are many other factors at play including natural resource wealth, distortions such as wars, workforce participation rates and cultural norms. However, the differences are significant even between seemingly similar countries such as Germany and Italy.

The rough consensus among economists is that in the long term, productivity is key; that is how efficiently a country puts together its labor and capital. The OECD numbers seem to support that view, however, it is surprising that the differences can be that great. One thing is for sure – it seems that the Norwegians and the Dutch have it figured out.


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Flash For Learning :: Working Harder vs. Working Smarter
Jun 2, 2008 18:27

[...] Artiuch at Wikinomics had a fascinating blurb today abouta recent OECD report that compared how many hours workers spend on average in a couple different nations, vs. their GDP. [...]

Jun 2, 2008 21:32

Joel Mokyr’s “The Lever of Riches” is probably the best/deepest analysis I’ve seen of this stuff. Correlation is a dangerous tool when it comes to studying this kind of thing.

Dan Harris
Jun 5, 2008 4:13

Couple things. 1) Doesn’t cost of living/currency values play a part here?2) Koreans may spend 12 hours a day at the office, but they certainly are not working all that time. Also, I would bet many of these hours “working” are spent socializing in bars and restaurants for work.

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