Half the World’s Workforce Works Too Much or Too Little


Working nine-to-five isn’t the norm for more than half of the global workforce, according to a report from the International Labor Organization.

Average hours of work globally fall well within the normal range, at approximately 43.9 hours per week prior to the pandemic, the ILO said in a study on work-life balance published on Friday. At the same time, about a third of workers have a work week of more than 48 hours, while a fifth work part-time or fewer than 35 hours per week.

Atypical Working Hours

About a third of the global workforce worked more than 48 hours and about a fifth worked less than 35 hours in 2019

Source: International Labor Organization

“Although long hours of work decreased slightly early in the pandemic and short hours of work increased somewhat, both of these phenomena were already reverting to their pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020,” the ILO said.

The ILO report also examined the mismatches between workers’ actual hours of work and their preferred hours of work — with data showing a substantial misalignment.


About a quarter of the labor force has some type of working-time mismatch

Source: International Labor Organization

Note: Based on ISSP Work Orientations IV module of 2015, a survey conducted across 37 different countries or areas, with a sample size of 15,544 respondents. Underemployment: actual hours are fewer than those desired by a worker. Overemployment: actual hours exceed those desired


Measures introduced during the Covid pandemic “yielded powerful new evidence that giving workers more flexibility in how, where and when they work can be positive both for them and for business, for example by improving productivity,” the ILO said. “Conversely, restricting flexibility brings substantial costs, including increased staff turnover.” 

“There is a substantial amount of evidence that work–life balance policies provide significant benefits to enterprises, supporting the argument that such policies are a ‘win-win’ for both employers and employees.”

—‘Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World,’ ILO 2022

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