On the Job in Europe and America

Sunday, July 1, 2007
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When it comes to the average length of the work week, Western Europeans have it made compared to their U.S. counterparts, right?

Guess again.

Although most European countries limit to 40 hours or less the maximum hours in a normal work week, in reality most full-time European workers put in an average of 42.1 hours, according to a recent "Untangling the Myths of Working Time" analysis by the Federation of European Employees.

Even in countries such as France, which has an official 35-hour workweek, many employees work well in excess of 40 hours per week.

Ironically, FEDEE says the liberal time-off policies mandated by most European governments are at least partly to blame -- by allowing employees lengthy paid leaves of absence for things such as child care and illness, they force the remaining workforce to put in many extra hours to take up the slack.

Meanwhile, an analysis of recent Census data by the American Sociological Association finds that contrary to popular perception, the length of the typical American workweek has not increased -- if anything, it shrank slightly between 1970 and 2000.

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So why do so many Americans feel so overworked?

The "Time Warp" study cites the rise of the dual-earner household: The number of two-income families has grown substantially -- so much so that two-earner families put in close to 82 working hours per week in 2000, compared to 78 hours in 1970.

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