Facebook Twitter

U.S. workers rated No. 1 in output

Some Europeans are more productive per hour, study finds

SHARE U.S. workers rated No. 1 in output

GENEVA — U.S. workers are the world's most productive, but they put in more hours than Europeans to score higher, according to a study released Monday by the United Nations labor agency.

Workers in France, Belgium and Norway beat the Americans in productivity per hour, the International Labor Organization said in its new issue of Key Indicators of the Labor Market.

The output per U.S. worker last year was $60,728, the report said. Belgium, the highest-scoring European Union member, had an output of $54,333 per worker.

"Part of the difference in output per worker was due to the fact that Americans worked longer hours than their European counterparts," the ILO said. "U.S. workers put in an average of 1,825 hours in 2002."

That is the equivalent of nearly 46 40-hour weeks.

The high overall U.S. productivity resulted from two factors, the report said.

The first is that the U.S. economy provides an environment for widespread use of information and communications technology. The second is that it has had more growth of wholesale and retail trade and financial securities using the technology.

Japanese worked about the same number of hours as Americans, but in major European economies the average ranged from 1,300 to 1,800 hours, it said.

"In terms of output per person employed, the U.S. is on top," said Dorothea Schmidt, an economist on the team that produced the 855-page report.

"In terms of output per hour we have three European countries doing better than the U.S. . . . and they have done so ever since the mid-80s."

Norwegians lead the world with an output of $38 per hour worked last year.

French workers were in second place, averaging $35 an hour, the report said. Belgians were third at $34, followed by Americans at $32.

Schmidt said there are "many, many reasons" why the three countries outscored the United States.

"One might be that during the time that these people work, they work more efficiently," she said. "It might be that the technology they use enables them to be more efficient in this one hour."

But Schmidt said the differences were not that great.

"It's not that they do twice the work that a U.S. worker does," she said. "It's the small things. If you work 15 hours a day, of course there are hours when you are not as productive as if you only work six hours a day."

But working less is not necessary the key, as shown by most other European Union countries that trail the United States, she said. It also depends on such factors as motivation, skills and training.

The report found that in most countries the number of hours worked was declining over the past three years in conjunction with the decline in the world economy.

The U.S. figure of 1,825 hours worked in 2002 was down from 1,834 in 2000, it said. Norwegian hours worked dropped to 1,342 from 1,380 over the same period.