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Japanese women are the hardest workers in the developed world, but not because of a liberated work environment.

They just do not get much help around the house, said a government white paper released this week.The average Japanese woman works 74.4 hours a week, the white paper said, including a daily average of three hours 52 minutes of housework.

Their menfolk, traditionally considered exemplars of hard work, labor just 61.7 hours a week - because they help around the house for only 24 minutes a day, the report said.

The paper said the gap is partly because in 68.6 percent of Japanese homes, rearing children is the sole responsibility of the mother, meaning she does more of every kind of household task. It was only considered something for the whole family in only 14.6 percent of Japanese homes.

In more than 30 percent of households in France, Sweden and the U.S., child-rearing is a task for the entire family, said the report, noting there is a correspondingly smaller gap between men's and women's work hours in Europe and North America.

American women work 62.1 hours a week, only a little more than American men, at 61.6 hours.

In Britain the figures are 59 hours and 56.4 hours respectively, the white paper said.