Workers in both the United States and Japan work relatively long work week hours compared with the rest of the world. The reason for this is due to different reasons for each country. In Japan, long working weeks tend to be put down to cultural reasons, where in the United States it is often due to the lack of vacation time, coupled with a strong work ethic.
Working Time in the United States
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who are not working on farms worked an average of 34.2 hours a week in February 2011. Those who work in manufacturing jobs work longer, at an average of 40.5 hours a week. For those in non-supervisory positions, the average work week was 33.5 hours. The longest work weeks were found with those working in the mining and lodging industry, at an average of 43.4 hours a week. The shortest work week was in the leisure and hospitality industry, at an average of 25.9 hours.
United States Working Time History
The number of hours worked in a week in the United States is actually higher than international average. One reason for this is because employers are not mandated to set a minimum amount of holiday time. Thus, workers are able to work more days in the year, which in turn brings up the average work week. About 10 percent of workers do not get paid while on vacation, and therefore work to bring up any shortfall in earnings. William Ouchi, in his essay "Japanese and American Workers: Two Casts of Mind," describes this as "individualism," or the desire to enhance one's own goals via means of self-reliance. This translates into a powerful work ethic, as harder work in the form of more hours typically equates to promotions and rewards in the future.
Working Time in Japan
A study conducted in 2004 by the JILPT found that the total number of hours worked in a month averaged 198.9 hours, which equates to roughly 46.41 hours assuming there are 30 days in a month. This, however, includes overtime hours, which averaged 7.37 hours a week. It was found that 21.3 percent of workers had 11.6 unpaid overtime hour a week. The number of hours worked in a week decreases gradually with age, with those in their 20s working an average of 47.25 hours a week, while those in their 50s working an average of 44.78 hours a week.
Japanese Working Time History
According to the 2004 JILPT study, many of the survey respondents indicated that the reason they worked such long hours of overtime was that their work load was too much to complete in normal working hours. Others reported that they worked overtime voluntarily in order to give a satisfactory result from their work. Much of the reason why the Japanese have such long working hours, according to William Ouchi, is due to cultural reasons, and specifically that of "collectivism." Many workers in Japan work for their employer for life. Coupled with a competitive spirit, there is a great sense of personal responsibility that lie with Japanese workers with respect to the company they work for.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: The Employment Situation--February 2011
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Table B-2
- JILPT: Empirical Study on Long Working Hours and Unpaid Working Time in Japan
- Professor Yoshikawa's Room: Why Japanese Employees Work So Long
- America.org: For Many Americans, Hard Work Is Badge of Honor
- Long Beach City College: Japanese and American Workers: Two Casts of Mind