Working Hours

OWID presents work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the original data source. This entry can be cited as:

Max Roser (2016) – ‘Working Hours’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/working-hours/ [Online Resource]


#  Empirical View

# The Decline of Working Hours per Year after the Industrial Revolution

The researchers Michael Huberman and Chris Minns published estimates of weekly work hours going back to the late 19th century. This data – shown in the following visualization – shows that over this time working hours have steeply declined. Full-time workers in these countries work 20 or even 30 hours less every week than in the 19th century.

# Working Hours in Hunter-Gatherer and Other Premodern Societies

Anthropologic studies of hunter-gatherer and subsistence cultivation societies show that labor inputs are small. This can be seen from the table below taken from Clark.1

The author is surprised by the short work days especially because some societies, as the Hiwi from Venezuela often suffer from hunger and although they achieve ‘high returns from each hour of work’ they still generally forage for less than 2 hours.

Generally the work time in hunter-gatherer societies is lower than in agrarian societies.

Male labor hours per day in different societies – Clark2
Group or locationGroup or activityHours
Tatuyo (a)Shifting cultivation, hunting7.6
Mikea (b)Shifting cultivation, foraging7.4
Ache (c)Hunting6.9
Abelam (d)Subsistence agriculture, hunting6.5
!Kung (e)Foraging6.4
Machiguenga (f)Shifting cultivation, foraging, hunting6.0
Xavante (g)Shifting cultivation, hunting5.9
Aruni (h)Subsistence agriculture5.2
Mekranoti (g)Shifting cultivation, foraging, hunting3.9
Shipibo (i)Subsistence agriculture, fishing3.4
Bemba (j)Shifting cultivation, hunting3.4
Hiwi (k)Hunting3.0
Yanomamo (a)Shifting cultivation, foraging, hunting2.8
Britain, 1800 (l,m)Farm laborers, paid labor8.2
Building workers, paid labor8.2
London, 1800 (n)All workers, paid labor9.1
United Kingdom, 2000 (o)All workers aged 16–648.8

# Correlates, Determinants and Consequences

# As productivity increases working hours decrease

Productivity increases also entailed decreasing work hours per week. This relationship – in the cross section – is shown in the following data visualization.

# As productivity in the household increased women have fewer working hours in the household

The interactive version of the upper part of this chart can be found here.

Share-of-US-households-with-basic-electrical-appliances-with-working-hours