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OECD studies: Working Conditions Around the World

16 May, 2011 11:28  Erin Erin

What is Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)?

OECD logoEstablished in 1961, this organization seeks to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. They do this by providing a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. Their site offers comparative data issues concerning the workforce including the safety of chemicals, how much taxes are paid, levels of social security, working hours, and more between countries.

So how do different countries stack up? Who works the longest hours? And who does the OECD say is doing the best?

Working Hours

The amount of time a nation spends working has an impact on a nation's economy and quality of life. Work does not just consist of time spent making money, it also means the time spent on unpaid labor like household chores. The OECD had some surprising findings about the nations that spent the most time working in and out of the home.


On average, Mexicans actually spend the most time working out of the OECD countries. Mexicans devote 10 hours to paid and unpaid work. On the other end, Belgians work the least at about 7 hours a day. This is lower than the OECD average of 8 hours a day.


Most unpaid work is housework like cooking and cleaning. Mexicans spend the most time at about 3 hours of housework a day. Koreans spend the least amount of time on housework with only an average of 1 hour and 19 minutes a day.


Another portion of unpaid work is cooking. Not surprising, Americans spend the least amount of time cooking each day at about 30 minutes. Turks spend the most time cooking at about 74 minutes. Most people spend around 50 minutes a day cooking.


Shopping also absorbs a good deal of time for the average person each day. Most people in OECD countries spend 23 minutes a day shopping. The French spend the most at 32 minutes and the Koreans the least at 13 minutes.

How Much Unpaid Work is Worth

The report also attempts to estimate how much unpaid work is worth as a percentage of GDP. It finds that the value of unpaid work is equivalent to about one-third of GDP in OECD countries, ranging from a low of 19 percent in Korea to a high of 53 percent in Portugal.

For the full report, go to OECD's Report on Who's Busiest: Working Hours and Household Chores Across OECD.

Economic Outlook of G7 Countries

Considering a range of factors, the OECD has made predictions on different nations economic future.


After turning around briskly in the second half of 2009 and into the early part of this year, US economic growth slowed in the second and third quarters of 2010. It appears that the effect of the stimulus is diminishing and is expected to turn negative in future quarters.

OECD recommends the Federal Reserve should continue to support growth. Inflation remains well contained and the economy continues to run well below capacity. If growth turns out to be significantly weaker than projected, action should be taken to lower real long-term rates via further quantitative easing. With high budget imbalances and a fast-rising federal debt, fiscal authorities need to reduce the deficit, although only gradually to avoid harming the recovery. With this plan, the OECD believes the US can stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio by 2015.


Japan has responded to slowing growth with two fiscal packages in late 2010, with annual growth projected to reach 1¾ percent. As the impact of the fiscal stimulus fades, stronger private domestic demand, underpinned by improving labor market conditions and high corporate profitability, will support the expansion through 2012.

OECD recommends that more ambitious consolidation is necessary. At a minimum, it is necessary to avoid additional fiscal stimulus and contain government spending through 2012. Additional tax revenue is necessary to achieve the target of halving the primary budget deficit from its FY 2010 level by FY 2015. The New Growth Strategy should focus on policies to boost productivity growth, especially in non-manufacturing.

Euro Area

A gradual recovery is underway, driven by strong exports and a rise in consumption and investment. Confidence has rebounded and financial conditions have improved. However, the pace of recovery is tempered with on-going private sector balance sheet adjustments, necessary fiscal consolidation and prolonged adjustment to large imbalances in some peripheral countries.

OECD recommends a more credible and detailed plans for fiscal consolidation. Prolonged consolidation is required in countries with large debt burdens to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio to a more prudent level. Fundamental reforms of fiscal and macroprudential policies are required.


The economy is recovering strongly due to improvement in world trade. Private consumption, investment and government spending on infrastructure have also been strong. The labor market continues to remain resilient and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since reunification. Although annual growth is expected to slow, the pre-crisis real GDP level will be reached in the course of 2011.

OECD recommends government finances are benefiting from the strong cyclical recovery, although fiscal stimulus measures will lead to an increase of the general government deficit this year. From 2011 onwards the government is planning ambitious consolidation measures in order to fulfill the structural deficit target set by the new fiscal rule. These consolidation policies should be coupled with structural policies to raise the potential growth rate.


There has been mild slowing of activity in recent months. Real GDP growth is projected to pick up to 2 percent by 2012. This will be led by business investment and exports. The unemployment rate has peaked, but is only declining slightly.

OECD recommends a tight fiscal stance in 2011. Further consolidation should aim to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio by 2013. With the pension reform now legislated, cutting spending and raising long-term potential output can be achieved through reforms of health care and public administration.


Italy's economy has begun a moderate recovery. Investment and exports lead the upturn in demand. Unemployment may be near its peak, but is not expected to fall very fast. Household income growth will remains sluggish and depends on a recovery in self-employment income.

OECD recommends that sufficient measures need to be introduced to increase meet the government's target for fixing the deficit. To ensure credibility, structural (as opposed to one-off) budget measures need to be put in place. In addition, supply-side reforms should be promoted to improve the long-term potential of the Italian economy.


The economy is recovering, supported by growing domestic demand and rising exports. There is substantial but necessary fiscal tightening. The recovery will gain a bit more momentum in 2012 when exports are expected to increase further. Unemployment is set to fall gradually. Inflation will remain above the 2 percent target through 2011, due to an initial boost from the rise in VAT. However, it is projected to fall below the target in 2012.

OECD recommends fiscal consolidation. The government has introduced a medium-term plan that significantly reduced fiscal risks and could, in combination with efficiency improvements in health spending and structural reforms, support growth in the longer term. The process of normalization of interest rates will have to start in earnest during 2012 as underlying inflation starts to increase.


The economic recovery has slowed sharply as a result of waning expansion of external demand. There has also been a retrenchment in household spending growth. Activity is expected to progress at a moderate pace through 2011-12. Business investment is expected to remain robust.

OECD recommends the government begin to withdraw stimulus and reduce structural deficits over 2011-12 to maintain investor confidence. Monetary policy currently remains accommodative. The Bank of Canada should delay further rate hikes until early 2011 when a recovery in private demand is expected.

For more OECD economies, go to Economic Outlook No. 88 Country summaries.

Complete Statistics

Kay Tables- Complete key tables by country. Statistical profiles include a wide range of indicators on economy, education, energy, environment, foreign aid, health, information and communication, labor, migration, R&D, trade and society.


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