Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Fast Company Now: comparative hours worked in different countries

Fast Company Now points to numbers from national geographic showing how much people in different countries work in general:

The current issue of National Geographic Magazine features an interesting one-page piece entitled "A Work-Weary World." The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tracked the annual hours worked around the world in 2003 and came up with some interesting findings:

* South Korea, 2,390
* Czech Republic, 1,972
* Poland, 1,956
* Greece, 1,938
* Mexico, 1,857
* Slovakia, 1,814
* Australia, 1,814
* New Zealand, 1,813
* Japan, 1,801
* Spain, 1,800
* United States, 1,792
* Hungary, 1,777
* Canada, 1,1718
* Finland, 1,713
* Portugal, 1,676
* United Kingdom, 1,673
* Ireland, 1,613
* Italy, 1,591
* Sweden, 1,564
* Austria, 1,550
* Belgium, 1,542
* Denmark, 1,475
* Germany, 1,446
* France, 1,431
* Netherlands, 1,354
* Norway 1,337

I tried looking up numbers of whether the hours worked have an inverse relationship to the overall tax burden in the country, but best I could come up with where numbers here, and which did not show a particularly obvious correlation to my theory. I will admit that I graphed the two series, but did not run any statistical analysis on them, and my evaluation was a purely visual observation of the time worked vs marginal rate graph. Moreover, I did not really want to see the marginal rate per se - I wanted to see the overall tax burden as described in this OECD Observer article which concluded:

So where does our analysis of ?all-in? tax rates lead? One lesson is that the gaps at the margin between top income earners domiciled in various OECD countries are narrower than often imagined and certainly not as wide as the headline rates show. In fact, the marginal top rate in most countries rises substantially when considering the all-in rate of taxes on income, to 61% in France and Turkey, 62% in Denmark and Sweden, 65% in Japan and 66% in Belgium. The highest all-in rates for taxpayers in the United States fall in the 40?48% range, depending on the State where they are resident.

That puts the gap with their counterparts in Sweden, which most people would see as the quintessential welfare state, in some cases at as low as nine percentage points. But before European countries gain too much confidence from this, US income earners can point out that taxpayers in Sweden and most other OECD countries in Europe move into top rate brackets at much lower income levels than they do.

What do we learn from this as far using tax rates to predict some level of the hours worked per worker? Not much, I dare say. Culture, the type of economic opportunities, level of country's economic development and stability, and perhaps the state of the pension system might dictate a lot more about the hours worked than a simple look at the marginal rates.


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