Canadians working too much?

Despite all the political scandals, very distinct political visions for this country, and recent attempts by political leaders to get Canadians to “rise up”, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of public enthusiasm in this federal election campaign yet.

One problem may be that Canadians are simply working too much.

Recently released figures from OECD show that Canadians aren’t just busy beavers but world-class workhorses when it comes to hours worked per day.

We are ranked fourth highest of 30 countries in terms of total minutes, paid and unpaid, worked each day and fifth highest in terms of paid work.  Only those in Japan, Korea, Mexico and China worked on average longer hours at their paid jobs each day than Canadians did.

Total minutes worked, paid and unpaid, per day

Total minutes worked, paid and unpaid, per day

Other labour force survey figures show that the average working couple family is working a full day more per week than they did in the early 1980s.

Younger working families don’t have the time or energy to “rise up” on top of all the paid and unpaid work we do each day.  It’s mostly retired seniors who have the time to rise up, and a lot of them have to reach for their canes or walkers first.

One problem is that we’ve had stagnant real wages and rising costs for tuition, etc. Extending the retirement age will only further increase average working hours.   Is this really where we want Canada to lead: in cutting corporate taxes and working longer hours than most everyone else?

Another thing that all this overworking seems to have led to is less sex, at least sex of the productive/reproductive variety.   Canadians have have a fertility rate below the OECD average and, as the country summary for Canada notes “easily the lowest of the Anglophone OECD countries.”  That’s saying something.

I’d like to see political leaders promise to lead us in the opposite direction: more time off to enjoy the fruits of our labour and different types of family activities.  I’m sure we’d see many more Canadians rise up and become more politically engaged as well.


  • Watch it Toby -Harper will be using this to show canadians that we are not working hard enough. I am surprised it was not a topic on the debut of Stunned TV.

    I know this is a suspect point, but does more total work per day mean some people like in Portugal are a bit obsessive about cleaning? I.e Lots of deviation in total work.

  • I would support a reduction in the work week. I think there are several issues that this raises, though. If you poll people working full time and ask them if they want to work more hours for more pay or fewer hours for less pay, apparently some of the poll results show it is like 90% for the former option.

    Most far-left groups support reducing the work week (to, say, a 32 hour week) with the proviso “no loss in pay.” I don’t see how this is likely. If a person is contributing up to 20% less hours to their workplace then surely you’d see their pay trend down over time.

    I don’t know if it would have any effect on the composition or level of employment. I don’t know what the results from France and elsewhere have been on this file. For example, the Green Party in Canada supports reducing the work week as a job-creation strategy, but I don’t know if there is much proof that there is a large net benefit from this.

  • I wonder how the increased numbers of people on contract, self-employed, mompreneuring and freelancing fit into the Canadian picture. Most people I know have more than one job, even those with good jobs, and most everyone is taking a course or volunteering to maintain their competitiveness in this economy. If that counts towards our ‘working’ hours, it just shows that our economic recovery is not as rosy as you hear on the nightly news. Two low-paid part time jobs is not quite as unemployed as doing nothing, but it sure takes more time and is less secure.

    I would gladly work the same hours for more pay. With the cost of living in the city, slightly fewer hours for slightly less pay might work, but it seems unlikely. Working arrangements are quite inflexible even on contract, so it is difficult to find well paid work with fewer hours.

  • And the graphs showing how much vacation (including stat. holidays) workers get around the developed world shows much the same — Canada has one of the lowest minimum vacation entitlements than most of the rich world.

    In fact, I just dug up the graph — we’re third lowest after the US and Japan:

  • …How about the fact that being forced to work two part time jobs as my son does…… leaves many people without …BENIFITS….! ! !…Now THAT really sucks ! ! ….
    ….However after paying into Benefits at the tune of $60-100 per mo for 25 yrs at a major BANK..when I went on stress leave they tried really hard to get rid of me….banks suck as an employer …and what keeps them in business …interest rates …and who pays the highest rates?……not big business…’s the little people….and who sets those rates?…not the government…..
    …at least my friends on social assistance can get dental work… even dentures..glasses etc….which I am happy for…maybe my son would be better off least he could get his teeth fixed..glasses and free prescriptions……not much wonder people go on social assistance..they can’t afford to work…..”it’s called the WORKING POOR”…
    well…I’m off to work….1pm-11pm…in the health care field….now that’s a story for another day..if I have the energy to write one….I don’t have time on my job for a break or a lunch hr…it’s non-stop just as in every job in health care….who’s going to fix THAT?
    ..looked after my aging in-laws for 6 yrs..then my father and mother for 4yrs….saved the government 65,000 a year per person…do the math…..and what assistance did we get from the government….ZERO…..that’s my spiel for the day…next topic….bring the boys home from another Vietnam…..but then the U.S. wouldn’t have control over the OIL would they….?

  • Thank you for you post. It is very interesting to read you blog… Congrat! You have one new reader…

  • This is the reality of todays modern economy, we are now forced to compete with the third world which is willing to work for far less than we will. Companies as profit maximizers see employess as costs and anything to reduce the costs helps profits and eventually shareholders.

    To hear more about how how economy works today look up “Gerald Celente” on youtube

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