South Africans are some of the hardest workers in the world

Statistics from the OECD shows the total number of hours worked in year across the world – and how South Africa compares.

According to the group, Mexico puts in the most working hours annually, racking up an average of 2,228 hours of work in 2014, followed by Costa Rica with 2,216 total hours worked.

The OECD data shows that South Korea is next, at 2,124 total hours worked in 2014 – however, injecting South African data into the mix, South Korea would drop to fourth.

While South Africa isn’t listed in this particular measure, weekly working hour data from the OECD shows that the average South African worker is on the job for 43.3 hours a week – or 8.7 hours a day.

Considering there are 250 working days in the South African business calendar (excluding weekends and public holidays), it’s fair to extrapolate this data to say the average South African worker puts in 2,165 hours a year.

This would place South Africans third on the list of hardest workers, below Mexico and Costa Rica.

# Country Average work hours (per year)
1 Mexico 2 228
2 Costa Rica 2 216
3 South Africa 2 165
4 South Korea 2 124
5 Greece 2 042
6 Chile 1 990
7 Russia 1 985
8 Latvia 1 938
9 Poland 1 923
10 Iceland 1 864
11 Estonia 1 859
12 Hungary 1 858
13 Portugal 1 857
14 Israel 1 853
15 Lithuania 1 834
OECD average 1 770

The OECD data is based on reported statistics from the countries it covers. The group countries is not comprehensive, and along with South Africa, excludes nations such as Brazil, India and China.

In 2013, it was reported that the average migrant worker in China works 8.8 hours a day (44 hours a week), while in India, media reports pointed to 8.1 hours a day (40.5 hours a week).

In South Africa, data on actual hours worked by those who are employed is equally as tough to come by.

A research paper from the University of Stellenbosch and the Bureau for Economic Research tracked the working hours of workers across various sectors in South Africa between 1997 and 2011.

The paper found that the average South African worker put in 42.9 hours a week – with the hardest-working sector being the mining and quarrying industry, which worked 45.3 hours.

Industry Average work hours (per week)
Mining and quarrying 45.3
Wholesale and retail 44.7
Financial, insurance and business services 43.7
Transport, storage and communication 43.6
Manufacturing 43.3
South Africa average 42.9
Electricity, gas and water supply 42.6
Construction 42.2
Community, social and personal services 40.8

Even with this reduced figure from 5 years ago (42.9 hours), South Africa would still rank third on the OECD ranking, with 2,145 hours worked in a year on average.

In SA, the accepted average hours per week is 40 – while in many cases (when there are no prior agreements or overtime packages) it is illegal to make employees work more than 45 hours a week.

Survey data from Stats SA showed that in 2015, 30% of workers reported working more than 45 hours a week.

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South Africans are some of the hardest workers in the world