The World's 5 Most Workaholic Countries

Does America's ranking among the most workaholic countries surprise you?

Jan 25, 2014 at 8:28AM

It's not news that Americans have been working more and more, and that in the opinion of many, our work-life balance has been thrown out of whack. According to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, a greater percentage of Americans work more than 40 hours per week (40%) than work 40 hours (31%), and these numbers have gotten more work-intensive just since May.

Still, the U.S. is not the most workaholic country. Out of 22 nations assessed in the Better Life Index compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), America is the 12th-worst, with just over 11% working "very long hours." The ranking is based on "the proportion of dependent employed whose usual hours of work per week are 50 hours or more."

So which are the most workaholic countries? Here are the top five when it comes to employees working very long hours, according to the OECD, along with some interesting facts about them and a representative company from each country, where many of its workaholics might toil.

Ranking No. 1 among the most workaholic countries is Turkey, with 46.13% of the dependent employed working very long hours . Turkey's Istanbul is the only city in the world to have a place in two continents -- Europe and Asia -- though Ankara, not Istanbul, is the country's capital. If you're familiar with one of the most bizarre episodes in financial history, when speculation in tulips was out of control, you might appreciate that tulips were first cultivated in Turkey.

Turkey's population tops 80 million, and its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.2% in 2012, a bit slower than our own growth rate of 2.8%, though its growth rare was recently closer to 9%. Income per capita in Turkey in 2012 was $10,830, vs. $16,430 in the U.S.

This member of the world's most workaholic countries doesn't offer many companies familiar to Americans, but investors might know Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri (NYSE:TKC), the leading communications and technology company in Turkey, with 71 million subscribers in the nine countries where it operates (as of Sept. 30, 2013). It's growing briskly and appears undervalued with a forward P/E ratio recently below 7.

Ranking No. 2 among the most workaholic countries is Japan, with an estimated 31.7% working very long hours. Japan's population tops 127 million, and its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.9% in 2012, significantly slower than our own growth rate of 2.8%. Income per capita in Japan in 2012 was $6,107, vs. $16,430 in the U.S.

This member of the world's most workaholic countries boasts Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NYSE:NTT) as one of its major employers, with more than 200,000 workers. NTT's stock yields about 2.9%, and its subsidiary, NTT DoCoMo, is Japan's largest cell phone company. NTT DoCoMo has been benefiting from the iPhone's growth in Japan. Japan is Apple's fastest growing sales region, with 27% year-over-year growth in 2013 and Apple's highest operating margins.

Ranking No. 3 among the most workaholic countries is Mexico, with 28.63% working very long hours. Its capital, Mexico City, is one of North America's oldest and highest (elevation-wise) cities. It's among the world's top 10 in terms of population, too, with more than 18 million people in its greater urban region. The Mexico-U.S. border is nearly 2,000 miles long and is crossed more frequently than any other international border. Mexico is our second-largest trade partner. 

Mexico's population is close to 120 million, and its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.8% in 2012, considerably higher than our own growth rate of 2.8%. Income per capita in Mexico in 2012 was $9,640, vs. $16,430 in the U.S.

This member of the world's most workaholic countries is home to Latin America's biggest cement company, Cemex (NYSE: CX), which has posted several years' worth of losses, though its revenue is growing in the U.S. and Europe. It employs roughly 44,000 people worldwide.

South Korea
Ranking No. 4 among the most workaholic countries as calculated by the OECD is South Korea, which had an estimated 27.66% working very long hours. You might be surprised to learn that the urban region surrounding its capital, Seoul, is among the top five most populous in the world. Roughly half of South Koreans claim no religion, while about a quarter each are Buddhist or Christian.

South Korea's population is around 50 million, and its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2% in 2012, considerably slower than our own growth rate of 2.8%. Income per capita in South Korea in 2012 was $22,670, vs. $16,430 in the U.S.

This member of the world's most workaholic countries is home to the steel company POSCO (NYSE:PKX), which employs more than 30,000 people. It has some worried about its debt levels and the fact that its revenue and earnings have been shrinking in recent years. Indeed, its CEO has offered to become less of a workaholic -- by quitting.

Ranking No. 5 among the most workaholic countries is Israel, with 17.58% working very long hours. It has an ambitious goal of becoming energy-independent as soon as possible and already 90% of Israeli homes have water heated by solar power. Per capita, it has the most biotech start-ups in the world.

Israel's population is close to 8 million, and its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.4% in 2012, higher than our own growth rate of 2.8%. Income per capita in Israel in 2012 was $28,380, vs. $16,430 in the U.S.

This member of the world's most workaholic countries is home to generic-drug giant Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE:TEVA), which has recently been challenged by increasing competition and the specter of patent expirations. It recently sported a 2.5% dividend yield, and some see it as attractively valued. Teva recently employed 46,000 workers in 60 countries. 

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Apple and Cemex. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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