Is Australia the true example of ‘work less, earn more’ ? Fascinating data reveals countries with the shortest work-week 2023

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Australia has the shortest workween in 2023

Have you often asked which country will offer you the highest salary for your academic degree, work experience, and the number of hours you choose to work? To be fair, the kind of money you earn contributes greatly to your quality of life, no debate on that. Yet, your salary is not the only measure of the highest quality of life you can enjoy, is it?

Social science professor Brendon Burchell at UK’s University of Cambridge argues that shorter work weeks have shown to reduce anxiety and stress, thus leading to greater vitality of the mind and body in young as well as older employees.

Is there any solid evidence that shorter work weeks are more productive and lead to improved ‘work-life’ balance?

Researchers at Cambridge University and Boston College have conducted a large-scale study on 61 companies, including 46 volunteering UK companies which co-operated with the study and reduced their work-week to 4 days, essentially 32 hours, instead of 5 days. To make things fair, no pay cuts were imposed on the employees, which meant that employees were taking home the same salaries for working 4 days a week.

The results from 61 companies and a corresponding 2,990 employees amazed the research team.

Employee perspective

  • 71% of employees claimed they no longer feel ‘burnt-out’ from work by the end of each week, while 40% claim lowered anxiety and improved social life
  • Consistently, 40% employees also reported better sleep quality and physical health, believing that they could allocate more time and energy to personal hobbies and recreation, while more family time for some.

Employers’ perspective

  • 56 companies (out of the total 61) reported that they will consider transitioning to a 4-day work-week model after observing greater productivity, and in many cases, increases in revenues.

Which countries have the shortest workweek?

Now that we have established the wonders of a shorter work week, you might begin to wonder which countries hold the rank for being a workers’ paradise. For the purposes of this article, we take our cues from the International Labour Organization (ILO) statistics.

Countries with the Shortest Workweeks:
Rank Country Workweek hours
1 Australia 29
2 Micronesia 30
3 Somalia 31
4 Kazakhstan 31
5 Djibouti 32
6 Malawi 34
7 Norway 34
8 Ghana 34
9 Germany 35
10 Switzerland 35
11 Ecuador 35
12 Chad 35
13 Tonga 36
14 Niger 36
15 Madagascar 36
16 Canada 36

Australia tops the list with only 29 hours of work per week. Following close by among high-income economies are Norway, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada.

If you look into the list yourself, you might want to argue that countries like Micronesia or Somalia have lower work weeks than Norway, or that Ghana is still a rank higher than Germany. The actual point in focus here is high productivity, hence, high-income economies.

Countries like Australia, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands have GDPs that surpass the other highly-ranked countries in the list often by multiples and powers of 10! (e.g, Micronesia GDP = USD 404 million, Germany GDP = USD 4.26 trillion ≈ 426 million × 104).

As a result, these countries offer much higher salaries even when you compare the base income.We are also looking into these comparisons in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI) in order to provide an idea of the comparative quality of life.

What you may find interesting is that these short work weeks are becoming a part of an emerging corporate culture for these liberal nations. Countries like Norway and Switzerland are valuing mental peace and quality of life for its citizens over harsh work policies that focus purely on the conversion of labour-hours to products or services even at the expense of workers’ health and safety. These have been among the key factors that have allowed Norway and Switzerland to maintain the top two positions in the HDI rankings. 

In Australia, employers make it a company culture which dictates that no employee is bound to answer calls or respond to emails from the workplace, regardless of their designation in the organisational hierarchy. In addition, 38 hours a week is the maximum labour hours that can be legally demanded out of an employee according to the ‘Fair Work Ombudsman’ which is an independently functioning investigative agency for the cause of fair treatment of workers and verifying labour statistics under the government of Australia. Interestingly enough, even the maximum legal weekly hours in Australia is less than the average of the top 14 countries with the longest weekly hours (see list below).

The privilege of limited working hours not only applies to Australian citizens but extends to residents, temporary or permanent. Much more favourably, among all temporary visa holders, it is the international students holding student visas who are even more protected and catered to by limiting their working hours to 48 bi-weekly, or 24 weekly hours. Therefore, regardless of the work sector or residency status, you have the privilege of working for shorter workweeks in Australia.

Now that we have looked into the data ranking Australia at the top in terms of shortest work-week, we can argue for the ‘work less’ part of it. However, where’s the ‘earn more’ part?

Let’s explore one of Australia’s golden accomplishments that make working in Australia the safest and quickest return on investment; the investment of labour that is.

Late July 2022, Australia legislated a minimum wage of 21.38 AU$ per hour, which gained the status of the highest minimum wage for any country in the world.

We can strongly imply that the average worker in Australia is earning the highest minimum pay rate worldwide (21.38 AU$/hr) while working through the shortest weekly hours (~29 hrs). This essentially fulfils the promise of the least hours of weekly work for the highest pay rate, i.e., work less, earn more.

Which Countries have the longest workweek?

Now if you happen to be employed in a mid-to-low income nation, you might wonder at this point, where do you stand in comparison with the working privileges that are enjoyed by the Australian workforce?

We provide here a list of the maximum weekly hours worked across a range of countries over the globe. Take a look to find out if you work in any of these listed countries.

Countries with the Longest Workweeks:
Rank Country Workweek hours
1 Mauritania 54
2 Egypt 53
3 Gambia 51
4 Qatar 50
5 Burkina Faso 50
6 Lesotho 50
7 Bangladesh 49
8 Mongolia 48
9 Kenya 48
10 Lebanon 48
11 Guyana 47
12 Myanmar 47
13 Botswana 47
14 Jordan 47

If you just happened to fall into this information as a surprise, we feel compelled to ask you if you would ever consider working in Australia, Germany, Norway, Switzerland or the Netherlands. We can all agree that these countries are at the top of their game when it comes to providing the best lifestyle to their respective residents, with a few additional perks unique to each country. However, our best bet has always been Australia and we’d like to share why.

As pleasant as the idea of migrating to and finding work in the Netherlands, Norway or Switzerland sounds, the immigration process of these nations is one of the lengthiest and highly averse to easy access. You might now jump and hit the buzzer to scream Canada! Granted Canada has a much more flexible PR process, you must consider that if you and your family have been living in a fairly tropical country all your life, the stone-cold Canadian winters might not be the best Christmas present you want to give to your family year after year.

Coming back to Norway and Switzerland, in case you do get past their demanding immigration process, your next worry should obviously be the living cost. Switzerland and Norway for example have both been ranked in the top ten list of the most expensive countries to live in. And yes, the Nordic winters also don’t offer as much frenzy and adventure as your Nordic music and folklore (just assuming you’ve been following the latest niche gen-z trends).

Germany is also a fairly reasonable option, however, you are more likely to find your footing there if you happen to come from a technical background. It may be safe to say that Germany has traditionally been a hub for technical professionals with its robust automotive and chemical industry and has a bias towards technical professions, which however one can benefit from if they are skilled in a particular technical field. The economy is rather ‘job-oriented’ and if you happen to be someone of entrepreneurial spirit, you are better off in Australia’s start-up climate. The Australian government offers various grants and investment channels to get your business ideas started. Also you can do pretty well with basic communicative English in Australia, whereas in Germany, you might feel compelled at some point to speak German in order to progress, which may be all the more challenging for some people.

The Netherlands is still considered one of the most progressive countries. However, if you plan on raising your family in a fairly conservative environment while holding on to your core traditional values and don’t hope to deviate much from the cultural norms you have followed all your life, then some of the ultra-progressive Dutch practices may not intrigue you depending on your priorities.

Australia comes into the picture here and offers a fairly balanced representation of cultural diversity and conservative traditionalism. On a more individual level, you get access to Australia’s top-tier education and healthcare, and on a much higher institutional level, you get to explore a vast range of industries for work or business opportunities that are suited to your field of expertise.

The Australian economy is not biased towards specific sectors, which means you may either choose to be a technical professional in the sciences, medicine, or technology or you may be a hardcore business, banking or corporate professional. The balanced market forces in Australia will always create room for your own field of expertise as long as you offer competence.

As for Australia’s immigration policies, the nation has always depended on its migrant workers and keeps on striving to make its policies flexible. To be specific, on the governmental level, Australia has voted a new labour government to power and their steps to make immigration more welcoming have been observed almost immediately post-election.

Starting by expanding migration quotas to a record-breaking 142,200 in skilled visas,  increasing the migration budget,  speeding up visa processing, creating more opportunities for international students and ensuring their safety in all conditions – Australia is ticking all the “do’s” and eliminating all the “don’ts” in order to make their migration policies more worthwhile for you compared to any other country.

Bridging West is a leading Australian Registered Migration Agency that has helped thousands of people migrate to Australia in the last 17 years. If you want to check your eligibility for any Australian visa, please fill up this form.We will get back to you as soon as possible.


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