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Workplaces of Past, Present, and Future

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A Look at How Workplaces around the World Have Changed

The workplace is ever-changing and things are much different from 30, 50, and even 100 years ago. Remote work has become a mainstay, as workers seek more work-life balance. There are even trials for 4-day work weeks, which are showing promise. The needs and demands of employees are changing, as illustrated in our Employee Demands 2023

But, how do the various countries in the world compare against each other? Which ones are making leaps towards improving the workplace for their workforces? Look for an improved workplace on Lensa, where there are many work opportunities to suit all kinds of needs.

Our experts at Lensa Careers have researched OECD countries, looking at work hours and pay over the last few decades.


Our study has found that overall, most of the countries across the world have seen some reduction in at least the average number of hours worked. On top of that, the productivity of countries has seen steady growth over the last few decades, with GDP per hour worked having increased almost across the globe. And it would appear there has been a steady growth in nominal statutory monthly wages for countries around the world. These changes in the workplace could serve to benefit workers, with fewer hours and higher pay rates giving them more financial security and greater work-life balance. 

Countries with the Biggest Change in Hours Worked

    1. Luxembourg

1995-2021 Average Difference in Hours Worked: -0.70%

Taking the top spot, we have Luxembourg, which has seen the average number of hours worked annually drop by 0.70% between 1995 and 2021. The statutory maximum work hours is 40 in Luxembourg, however, the OECD figures show that as of 2021, people in Luxembourg work on average around 29 hours per week. 


    1. Japan

1995-2021 Average Difference in Hours Worked: -0.57%

Japan has seen the second-largest decrease in the number of hours worked annually per worker. Between 1995 and 2021, the average number of annual hours worked has fallen by 0.57% per person. Again, OECD figures from 2021 show that on average, people in Japan work approximately 33 hours per week, much lower than the typical 40 hours that many of Europe’s countries use, as well as the US. 


    1. Israel

1995-2021 Average Difference in Hours Worked: -0.56%

And the country with the third-largest decrease in the average work hours per person is Israel. From 1995 to 2021, this country has seen a steady average decline of 0.56% in the average annual hours worked per person, indicating a better life balance for employees in Israel. 

Countries with the Largest Difference in Work Hour Limits

For this section, we looked at the legal number of statutory hours people are allowed to work in OECD countries. Some countries, like the UK, Denmark, and Germany, no longer have a legal limit. And many countries haven’t changed their figures since 1996, such as the US, which still has a legal limit of 40 hours per week. Anything over these statutory limits is considered overtime and workers should be compensated as such.


    1. Canada

1996-2020 Difference in Statutory Weekly Work Hours: -16.67%

Canada is one of the few countries that has seen a change in their work hours limitations. In 1996, the statutory hours in Canada were 48 hours per week, which has fallen by 16.67% as of 2020, to a more reasonable 40 hours per week.


    1. Italy

1996-2020 Difference in Statutory Weekly Work Hours: -16.67%

Italy has also seen a 16.67% decrease in their work hours limitations, presumably making things more manageable for workers. Similar to Canada, Italy’s statutory hours were set at 48 hours per week in 1996 – this has now dropped to 40 hours.


    1. France

1996-2020 Difference in Statutory Weekly Work Hours: -10.26%

In 1996, the work hours limit in France was 39 hours per week, already just below the standard 40 hours we see today in my EU countries, as well as the US. However, as of 2020, France’s standard weekly work hours are now 35 hours per week, one of the lowest in the world.


    1. South Korea

1996-2020 Difference in Statutory Weekly Work Hours: -9.09%

South Korea has also seen its standard work hours limit drop – from 1996 to 2020, there has been a 9.09% decrease. The hours were set at 44 per week, but as of 2020, South Korea now uses the standard 40 hours, like many other countries, such as the US.

Countries with the Largest GDP Difference per Hour Worked


    1. Latvia

Average GDP Growth 1995-2021 (per hour worked): 4.63%

The country with the best average GDP per hour worked is Latvia, with a 4.63% increase from 1995 to 2021. This indicates that the Latvian economy has had steady growth, as well as highlighting the efficiency and productivity of its workers. Additionally, stimulating growth in the economy can also create more opportunities for workers. 


    1. Ireland

Average GDP Growth 1995-2021 (per hour worked): 4.37%

Coming in with the second-highest growth rate for the GDP per hour worked is Ireland. Between 1995 and 2021 the GDP per hour worked has grown by 4.37% in the country, meaning their incredible productivity is driving growth in their economy.


    1. South Korea

Average GDP Growth 1995-2021 (per hour worked): 4.27%

The country with the third-highest growth rate for GDP per hour worked is South Korea, with an increase of 4.27% from 1995 to 2021. In 2021, South Korea was the 12th biggest economy in terms of GDP, just above Australia.

Countries with the Biggest Increase in Statutory Monthly Pay


    1. Latvia

1998-2021 Average Increase in Statutory Monthly Pay: 10.17%

Latvia saw the biggest increase in statutory gross monthly pay, from 1998 to 2021 there was an average increase of 10.17%. This is a pretty significant increase, though you could argue that the country’s smaller population allows for larger pay increases.


    1. Lithuania

1998-2021 Average Increase in Statutory Monthly Pay: 9.81%

In second, we have another small European country. This time Lithuania, whose population is only approximately 1 million more than Latvia’s. From 1998 to 2021, however, the country has seen a 9.81% increase on average to workers’ statutory gross monthly pay.


    1. Czech Republic

1998-2021 Average Increase in Statutory Monthly Pay: 9.61%

Czechia, or the Czech Republic, takes the third spot for the largest increase in statutory monthly gross pay. From 1998 to 2021 the country has recorded, on average, a 9.61% increase in gross monthly pay.

US States with the Largest Difference in Weekly Work Hours


    1. Alaska

2020-2022 Average Difference: -7.8%

Alaska is the US state that has seen the most significant decrease in the average number of work hours per week. During the course of 2020 to 2022, the state has seen an average decrease of 7.8%, with the current average work hours being around 31 per week, as of 2022. 


    1. Nebraska

2020-2022 Average Difference: -5.5%

Nebraska takes the second spot, over the past few years, the average difference in weekly work hours has fallen by 5.5%. Currently, as of 2022, the average weekly work hours for people in Nebraska is around 37.7 hours. 


    1. New Hampshire

2020-2022 Average Difference: -5.2%

The US state with the third-largest difference in average weekly work hours is New Hampshire, with a 5.2% decrease on average from 2020 to 2022. Additionally, the most recent data shows that the average weekly work hours for the state is around 37.2. 

Diversity in the US Workforce

Diversity in the US has always been a hot topic, especially in the workplace as 77% of the workforce is still made up of white people. Followed by the 18% that makes up Hispanic or Latino ethnicities and 13% made up black people. 

However, in terms of labor force participation, Hispanic and Latino ethnicities are the most involved in the labor force, with 67.34% being in some form of work. The next biggest labor force involvement is then white people, at 65.37%. Black people or African Americans have the lowest labor force involvement, with 63.24% being in some form of work. 

Each race has seen, on average between 1995 and 2020, a decline in labor force involvement. The biggest decline was seen for Asians, at an average of -0.34% from 1995 to 2020. And the smallest decrease was for Hispanic and Latino ethnicities, at -0.02% from 1995 to 2020. 


To begin with, we looked at the average annual hours worked for each OECD country from 1995 to 2021, using the Average annual hours actually worked per worker from the OECD directly. Using this data, we were able to calculate the year-on-year increase, to then calculate the average increase from 1995 to 2021. This dataset includes full-time and part-time workers. 

Once again, we used the OECD’s Working hours: latest trends and policy initiatives to take down the statutory work hours for OECD countries in 1996 (some current members aren’t included in this data). We then used Working time and its regulation in OECD countries: How much do we work and how? From the OECD, which includes the statutory hours worked for OECD countries as of 2020, from there, we were able to calculate the difference in statutory hours as a percentage. 

Again, using the OECD, we looked at their Growth in GDP per capita, productivity and ULC dataset, taking the GDP for countries from 1995 to 2021. Again, we were then able to calculate the average year-on-year increase between those years.  

Using ILOSTAT Explorer’s Statutory nominal gross monthly minimum wage – Annual we took the monthly pay for countries from 1998 to 2021 (1998 was the earliest data available in this case). From there, we calculated the average year-on-year increase for each country. 

For the US state average weekly work hours, we used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Average hours and earnings of production employees on manufacturing payrolls, by State. We then calculated the average difference in weekly work hours from 2020 to 2022. 

For the labor force participation in the US, we used the Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor force characteristics by race and ethnicity, 2020, using Table 4. We took the data from 1995 to 2020, then calculated the year-on-year increase, to then calculate the average increase over that period of time. 

Team Lensa
Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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