Working time

Working time is the period of time that a person spends at paid labor. Unpaid labor such as personal housework or caring for children or pets is not considered part of the working week.
Many countries regulate the work week by law, such as stipulating minimum daily rest periods, annual holidays, and a maximum number of working hours per week. Working time may vary from person to person, often depending on economic conditions, location, culture, lifestyle choice, and the profitability of the individual's livelihood. For example, someone who is supporting children and paying a large mortgage might need to work more hours to meet basic costs of living than someone of the same earning power with lower housing costs. In developed countries like the United Kingdom, some workers are part-time because they are unable to find full-time work, but many choose reduced work hours to care for children or other family; some choose it simply to increase leisure time.
Standard working hours refers to the legislation to limit the working hours per day, per week, per month or per year. The employer pays higher rates for overtime hours as required in the law. Standard working hours of countries worldwide are around 40 to 44 hours per week and the additional overtime payments are around 25% to 50% above the normal hourly payments. Maximum working hours refers to the maximum working hours of an employee. The employee cannot work more than the level specified in the maximum working hours law.


Since the 1960s, the consensus among anthropologists, historians, and sociologists has been that early hunter-gatherer societies enjoyed more leisure time than is permitted by capitalist and agrarian societies; for instance, one camp of !Kung Bushmen was estimated to work two-and-a-half days per week, at around 6 hours a day. Aggregated comparisons show that on average the working day was less than five hours.
Subsequent studies in the 1970s examined the Machiguenga of the Upper Amazon and the Kayapo of northern Brazil. These studies expanded the definition of work beyond purely hunting-gathering activities, but the overall average across the hunter-gatherer societies he studied was still below 4.86 hours, while the maximum was below 8 hours. Popular perception is still aligned with the old academic consensus that hunter-gatherers worked far in excess of modern humans' forty-hour week.


The industrial revolution made it possible for a larger segment of the population to work year-round, because this labor was not tied to the season and artificial lighting made it possible to work longer each day. Peasants and farm laborers moved from rural areas to work in urban factories, and working time during the year increased significantly. Before collective bargaining and worker protection laws, there was a financial incentive for a company to maximize the return on expensive machinery by having long hours. Records indicate that work schedules as long as twelve to sixteen hours per day, six to seven days per week were practiced in some industrial sites.
Over the 20th century, work hours shortened by almost half, partly due to rising wages brought about by renewed economic growth and competition for skilled workers, with a supporting role from trade unions, collective bargaining, and progressive legislation. The workweek, in most of the industrialized world, dropped steadily, to about 40 hours after World War II. The limitation of working hours is also proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and European Social Charter. The decline continued at a faster pace in Europe: for example, France adopted a 35-hour workweek in 2000. In 1995, China adopted a 40-hour week, eliminating half-day work on Saturdays. Working hours in industrializing economies like South Korea, though still much higher than the leading industrial countries, are also declining steadily.
Technology has also continued to improve worker productivity, permitting standards of living to rise as hours decline. In developed economies, as the time needed to manufacture goods has declined, more working hours have become available to provide services, resulting in a shift of much of the workforce between sectors.
Economic growth in monetary terms tends to be concentrated in health care, education, government, criminal justice, corrections, and other activities rather than those that contribute directly to the production of material goods.
In the mid-2000s, the Netherlands was the first country in the industrialized world where the overall average working week dropped to less than 30 hours.

Gradual decrease in working hours

Most countries in the developed world have seen average hours worked decrease significantly. For example, in the U.S in the late 19th century it was estimated that the average work week was over 60 hours per week. Today the average hours worked in the U.S. is around 33, with the average man employed full-time for 8.4 hours per work day, and the average woman employed full-time for 7.9 hours per work day.
The front runners for lowest average weekly work hours are the Netherlands with 27 hours, and France with 30 hours. In a 2011 report of 26 OECD countries, Germany had the lowest average working hours per week at 25.6 hours.
The New Economics Foundation has recommended moving to a 21-hour standard work week to address problems with unemployment, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, overworking, family care, and the general lack of free time. Actual work week lengths have been falling in the developed world.
Factors that have contributed to lowering average work hours and increasing standard of living have been:
Recent articles supporting a four-day week have argued that reduced work hours would increase consumption and invigorate the economy. However, other articles state that consumption would decrease, which could reduce the environmental impact. Other arguments for the four-day week include improvements to workers' level of education and improvements to workers' health. Reduced hours also save money on day care costs and transportation, which in turn helps the environment with less carbon-related emissions. These benefits increase workforce productivity on a per-hour basis.

Workweek structure

The structure of the work week varies considerably for different professions and cultures. Among salaried workers in the western world, the work week often consists of Monday to Friday or Saturday with the weekend set aside as a time of personal work and leisure. Sunday is set aside in the western world because it is the Christian sabbath.
The traditional American business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, representing a workweek of five eight-hour days comprising 40 hours in total. These are the origin of the phrase 9-to-5, used to describe a conventional and possibly tedious job. Negatively used, it connotes a tedious or unremarkable occupation. The phrase also indicates that a person is an employee, usually in a large company, rather than an entrepreneur or self-employed. More neutrally, it connotes a job with stable hours and low career risk, but still a position of subordinate employment. The actual time at work often varies between 35 and 48 hours in practice due to the inclusion, or lack of inclusion, of breaks. In many traditional white collar positions, employees were required to be in the office during these hours to take orders from the bosses, hence the relationship between this phrase and subordination. Workplace hours have become more flexible, but the phrase is still commonly used.
Several countries have adopted a workweek from Monday morning until Friday noon, either due to religious rules or the growing predominance of a 35–37,5 hour workweek in continental Europe. Several of the Muslim countries have a standard Sunday through Thursday or Saturday through Wednesday workweek leaving Friday for religious observance, and providing breaks for the daily prayer times. Some organizations follow a 4-day work week. Some government services have a modified schedule that provides evening hours on at least one day a week, for the convenience of constituents, at the expense of regular business hours elsewhere in the week.

Average annual hours actually worked per worker

OECD ranking

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OECD average1,734-

OECD average1,763

OECD average1,766

OECD average1,770-

Trends over time

Differences among countries and regions

European countries

In most European Union countries, working time is gradually decreasing. The European Union's working time directive imposes a 48-hour maximum working week that applies to every member state except the United Kingdom and Malta. France has enacted a 35-hour workweek by law, and similar results have been produced in other countries through collective bargaining. A major reason for the lower annual hours worked in Europe is a relatively high amount of paid annual leave. Fixed employment comes with four to six weeks of holiday as standard. In the UK, for example, full-time employees are entitled to 28 days of paid leave a year.


France experimented in 2000 with a sharp cut of legal or statutory working time of the employees in the private and public sector from 39 hours a week to 35 hours a week, with the stated goal to fight against rampant unemployment at that time. The Law 2000-37 on working time reduction is also referred to as the Aubry Law, according to the name of the Labor Minister at that time.
Employees can work more than 35 hours a week, yet in this case firms must pay them overtime bonuses. If the bonus is determined through collective negotiations, it cannot be lower than 10%. If no agreement on working time is signed, the legal bonus must be of 25% for the first 8 hours, then goes up to 50% for the rest.
Including overtime, the maximum working time cannot exceed 48 hours per week, and should not exceed 44 hours per week over 12 weeks in a row.
In France the labor law also regulates the minimum working hours: part-time jobs should not allow for less than 24 hours per week without a branch collective agreement. These agreements can allow for less, under tight conditions.
According to the official statistics, after the introduction of the law on working time reduction, actual hours per week performed by full-time employed, fell from 39.6 hours in 1999, to a trough of 37.7 hours in 2002, then gradually went back to 39.1 hours in 2005. In 2016 working hours were of 39.1..

South Korea

South Korea has the fastest shortening working time in the OECD, which is the result of the government's proactive move to lower working hours at all levels to increase leisure and relaxation time, which introduced the mandatory forty-hour, five-day working week in 2004 for companies with over 1,000 employees. Beyond regular working hours, it is legal to demand up to 12 hours of overtime during the week, plus another 16 hours on weekends. The 40-hour workweek expanded to companies with 300 employees or more in 2005, 100 employees or more in 2006, 50 or more in 2007, 20 or more in 2008 and a full inclusion to all workers nationwide in July 2011. The government has continuously increased public holidays to 16 days in 2013, more than the 10 days of the United States and double that of the United Kingdom's 8 days. Despite those efforts, South Korea's work hours are still relatively long, with an average 2,163 hours per year in 2012.


Work hours in Japan are decreasing, but many Japanese still work long hours. Recently, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued a draft report recommending major changes to the regulations that govern working hours. The centerpiece of the proposal is an exemption from overtime pay for white-collar workers.Japan has enacted an 8-hour work day and 40-hour work week. The overtime limits are: 15 hours a week, 27 hours over two weeks, 43 hours over four weeks, 45 hours a month, 81 hours over two months and 120 hours over three months; however, some workers get around these restrictions by working several hours a day without 'clocking in' whether physically or metaphorically. The overtime allowance should not be lower than 125% and not more than 150% of the normal hourly rate.


Mexican laws mandate a maximum of 48 hours of work per week, but they are rarely observed or enforced due to loopholes in the law, the volatility of labor rights in Mexico, and its underdevelopment relative to other members countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development . Indeed, private sector employees often work overtime without receiving overtime compensation. Fear of unemployment and threats by employers explain in part why the 48-hour work week is disregarded..


Articles 161 to 167 of the Substantive Work Code in Colombia provide for a maximum of 48 hours of work a week. Also, the law notes that workdays should be divided into 2 sections to allow a break, usually given as the meal time which is not counted as work. Typically, there is a 2-hours break for lunch that starts from 12:00 through 13:00.


According to the main law of work in Spain, Workers' Statute Act, puts a limit of the working time an employee must be obliged to do. In the Article 34 of this law, a maximum of 9 hours per day and 40 hours per week are established.
Employees typically receive either 12 or 14 payments per year, with approximately a 21-day vacation. According to Spanish regulation, Spain holds what is known as the , which stipulates that based on the type of job, different regulations and laws regarding employee work week and wage apply. Overall they rank as the 13th highest in regard to international GDP growth.
According to a research of the OECD Better Life Index, 4% of the Spanish workers work more than 50 hours per week, compared to the average of 11% of the OECD countries.
Working hours were regulated by law. Mandatory registration of employee working time has been in place since 2019. Legislators tried to stop non-paid overtime and push for more transparency of actual working hours. Non-regulated pauses during work-day to take a coffe or smoke must be unaccounted as work-time, according to a rule of The Spanish National Court in February 2020.

Traditional mid-day break

However, one of the interesting aspects of the Spanish work day and labor is the presence of a break around lunchtime. It's been mistakenly thought to be due to siesta, but the reality is that the midday meal is the main one in Spain and workers used to go back home to have that meal with their families. That break, typically of 1 or 2 hours, has been kept in the working culture because in the post-civil-war period most workers had two jobs to be able to sustain their families. Following this tradition, in small and medium sized cities, restaurants and businesses shut down during this time period of 2-5 for retail and 4-8 for restaurants. Many office jobs only allow one hour or even a half hour breaks to eat the meal in office building restaurantes or designated lunch rooms.
A majority of adults emphasize the lack of a siesta during the typical work week. Only one in ten Spaniards take a mid-day nap, a percentage less than other European nations.


In Australia, between 1974 and 1997 no marked change took place in the average amount of time spent at work by Australians of "prime working age". Throughout this period, the average time spent at work by prime working-age Australians remained stable at between 27 and 28 hours per week. This unchanging average, however, masks a significant redistribution of work from men to women. Between 1974 and 1997, the average time spent at work by prime working-age Australian men fell from 45 to 36 hours per week, while the average time spent at work by prime working-age Australian women rose from 12 to 19 hours per week. In the period leading up to 1997, the amount of time Australian workers spent at work outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays also increased.
In 2009, a rapid increase in the number of working hours was reported in a study by The Australia Institute. The study found the average Australian worked 1855 hours per year at work. According to Clive Hamilton of The Australia Institute, this surpasses even Japan. The Australia Institute believes that Australians work the highest number of hours in the developed world.
From January 1, 2010, Australia enacted a 38-hour workweek in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009, with an allowance for additional hours as overtime.
The vast majority of full-time employees in Australia work additional overtime hours. A 2015 survey found that of Australia's 7.7 million full-time workers, 5 million put in more than 40 hours a week, including 1.4 million who worked more than 50 hours a week and 270,000 who put in more than 70 hours.

United States

In 2016, the average man employed full-time worked 8.4 hours per work day, and the average woman employed full-time worked 7.8 hours per work day. There is no mandatory minimum amount of paid time off for sickness or holiday but the majority of full-time civilian workers have access to paid vacation time. Because of the pressure of working, time is increasingly viewed as a commodity.

Recent history

By 1946 the United States government had inaugurated the 40-hour work week for all federal employees. Beginning in 1950, under the Truman Administration, the United States became the first known industrialized nation to explicitly and permanently forswear a reduction of working time. Given the military-industrial requirements of the Cold War, the authors of the then secret National Security Council Report 68 proposed the US government undertake a massive permanent national economic expansion that would let it "siphon off" a part of the economic activity produced to support an ongoing military buildup to contain the Soviet Union. In his 1951 Annual Message to the Congress, President Truman stated:

In terms of manpower, our present defense targets will require an increase of nearly one million men and women in the armed forces within a few months, and probably not less than four million more in defense production by the end of the year. This means that an additional 8 percent of our labor force, and possibly much more, will be required by direct defense needs by the end of the year.
These manpower needs will call both for increasing our labor force by reducing unemployment and drawing in women and older workers, and for lengthening hours of work in essential industries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average non-farm private sector employee worked 34.5 hours per week as of June 2012.
As President Truman's 1951 message had predicted, the share of working women rose from 30 percent of the labor force in 1950 to 47 percent by 2000 – growing at a particularly rapid rate during the 1970s. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued May 2002, "In 1950, the overall participation rate of women was 34 percent.... The rate rose to 38 percent in 1960, 43 percent in 1970, 52 percent in 1980, and 58 percent in 1990 and reached 60 percent by 2000. The overall labor force participation rate of women is projected to attain its highest level in 2010, at 62 percent.” The inclusion of women in the work force can be seen as symbolic of social progress as well as of increasing American productivity and hours worked.
Between 1950 and 2007 official price inflation was measured to 861 percent. President Truman, in his 1951 message to Congress, predicted correctly that his military buildup "will cause intense and mounting inflationary pressures." Using the data provided by the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erik Rauch has estimated productivity to have increased by nearly 400%. According to Rauch, "if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours per week."
In the United States, the working time for upper-income professionals has increased compared to 1965, while total annual working time for low-skill, low-income workers has decreased. This effect is sometimes called the "leisure gap".
The average working time of married couples – of both spouses taken together – rose from 56 hours in 1969 to 67 hours in 2000.

Overtime rules

Many professional workers put in longer hours than the forty-hour standard. In professional industries like investment banking and large law firms, a forty-hour workweek is considered inadequate and may result in job loss or failure to be promoted. Medical residents in the United States routinely work long hours as part of their training.
Workweek policies are not uniform in the U.S. Many compensation arrangements are legal, and three of the most common are wage, commission, and salary payment schemes. Wage earners are compensated on a per-hour basis, whereas salaried workers are compensated on a per-week or per-job basis, and commission workers get paid according to how much they produce or sell.
Under most circumstances, wage earners and lower-level employees may be legally required by an employer to work more than forty hours in a week; however, they are paid extra for the additional work. Many salaried workers and commission-paid sales staff are not covered by overtime laws. These are generally called "exempt" positions, because they are exempt from federal and state laws that mandate extra pay for extra time worked. The rules are complex, but generally exempt workers are executives, professionals, or sales staff. For example, school teachers are not paid extra for working extra hours. Business owners and independent contractors are considered self-employed, and none of these laws apply to them.
Generally, workers are paid time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times the worker's base wage, for each hour of work past forty. California also applies this rule to work in excess of eight hours per day, but exemptions and exceptions significantly limit the applicability of this law.
In some states, firms are required to pay double-time, or twice the base rate, for each hour of work past 60, or each hour of work past 12 in one day in California, also subject to numerous exemptions and exceptions. This provides an incentive for companies to limit working time, but makes these additional hours more desirable for the worker. It is not uncommon for overtime hours to be accepted voluntarily by wage-earning workers. Unions often treat overtime as a desirable commodity when negotiating how these opportunities shall be partitioned among union members.


has a 44-hour work week, normally 8 hours per day and 4 hours on Saturday or 8.8 hours per day. Jobs with no meal breaks or on-duty meal breaks are 6 hours per day. Public servants work 40 hours per week.
Lunch breaks are one hour and are not usually counted as work. A typical work schedule is 8:00 or 9:00–12:00, 13:00–18:00. In larger cities, workers eat lunch on or near their work site, while some workers in smaller cities may go home for lunch.
A 30-day vacation is mandated by law. Holidays vary by municipality with approximately 13 to 15 holidays per year.

Mainland China

China adopted a 40-hour week, eliminating half-day work on Saturdays. However, this rule has never been truly enforced, and unpaid or underpaid overtime working is common practice in China.
Traditionally, Chinese have worked long hours, and this has led to many deaths from overwork, with the state media reporting in 2014 that 600,000 people were dying suddenly annually, some of them were dying from overwork. Despite this, work hours have reportedly been falling for about three decades due to rising productivity, better labor laws, and the spread of the two-day weekend. The trend has affected both factories and white-collar companies that have been responding to growing demands for easier work schedules.
The 996 working hour system, as it is known, is where employees work from 09:00 to 21:00, six days a week, excluding two hours of lunch & nap during the noon and one hour of supper in the evening. Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and JD.Com founder Richard Liu both praise the 996 schedule, saying such a schedule has helped Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent grow to become what they are today.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has no legislation regarding maximum and normal working hours.
The average weekly working hours of full-time employees in Hong Kong is 49 hours. According to the Price and Earnings Report 2012 conducted by UBS, while the global and regional average were 1,915 and 2,154 hours per year respectively, the average working hours in Hong Kong is 2,296 hours per year, which ranked the fifth longest yearly working hours among 72 countries under study. In addition, from the survey conducted by the Public Opinion Study Group of the University of Hong Kong, 79% of the respondents agree that the problem of overtime work in Hong Kong is "severe", and 65% of the respondents support the legislation on the maximum working hours. In Hong Kong, 70% of surveyed do not receive any overtime remuneration. These show that people in Hong Kong concerns the working time issues. As Hong Kong implemented the minimum wage law in May 2011, the Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, of the Special Administrative Region pledged that the government will standardize working hours in Hong Kong.
On 26 November 2012, the Labour Department of the HKSAR released the "Report of the policy study on standard working hours". The report covers three major areas, including: the regimes and experience of other places in regulating working hours, latest working time situations of employees in different sectors, and estimation of the possible impact of introducing standard working hour in Hong Kong. Under the selected parameters, from most loosen to most stringent, the estimated increase in labour cost vary from 1.1 billion to 55 billion HKD, and affect 957,100 to 2,378,900 employees.
Various sectors of the community show concerns about the standard working hours in Hong Kong. The points are summarized as below:

Opinions from various sectors

Labor organizations
Hong Kong Catholic Commission For Labour Affairs urges the government to legislate the standard working hours in Hong Kong, and suggests a 44 hours standard, 54 hours maximum working hours in a week. The organization thinks that long working time adversely affects the family and social life and health of employees; it also indicates that the current Employment Ordinance does not regulate overtime pays, working time limits nor rest day pays, which can protect employees rights.
Businesses and related organizations
Generally, business sector agrees that it is important to achieve work-life balance, but does not support a legislation to regulate working hours limit. They believe "standard working hours" is not the best way to achieve work-life balance and the root cause of the long working hours in Hong Kong is due to insufficient labor supply. The Managing Director of Century Environmental Services Group, Catherine Yan, said "Employees may want to work more to obtain a higher salary due to financial reasons. If standard working hour legislation is passed, employers will need to pay a higher salary to employees, and hence the employers may choose to segment work tasks to employer more part time employees instead of providing overtime pay to employees." She thinks this will lead to a situation that the employees may need to find two part-time jobs to earn their living, making them wasting more time on transportation from one job to another.
The Chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Chow Chung-kong believes that it is so difficult to implement standard working hours that apply “across-the-board”, specifically, to accountants and barristers. In addition, he believes that standard working hours may decrease individual employees' working hours and would not increase their actual income. It may also lead to an increase of number of part-timers in the labor market.
According to a study conducted jointly by the Business, Economic and Public Affairs Research Centre and Enterprise and Social Development Research Centre of Hong Kong Shue Yan University, 16% surveyed companies believe that a standard working hours policy can be considered, and 55% surveyed think that it would be difficult to implement standard working hours in businesses.
Employer representative in the Labour Advisory Board, Stanley Lau, said that standard working hours will completely alter the business environment of Hong Kong, affect small and medium enterprise and weaken competitiveness of businesses. He believes that the government can encourage employers to pay overtime salary, and there is no need to regulate standard working hours.
Political parties
On 17–18 October 2012, the Legislative Council members in Hong Kong debated on the motion "legislation for the regulation of working hours". Cheung Kwok-che proposed the motion "That is the Council urges the Government to introduce a bill on the regulation of working hours within this legislative session, the contents of which must include the number of standard weekly hours and overtime pay". As the motion was not passed by both functional constituencies and geographical constituencies, it was negatived.
The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions suggested a standard 44-hour work week with overtime pay of 1.5 times the usual pay. It believes the regulation of standard working hour can prevent the employers to force employees to work without pay.
Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, believed that standard working hours were a labor policy and was not related to family-friendly policies. The Vice President of Young DAB, Wai-hung Chan, stated that standard working hours would bring limitations to small and medium enterprises. He thought that the government should discuss the topic with the public more before legislating standard working hours.
The Democratic Party suggested a 44-hour standard work week and compulsory overtime pay to help achieve the balance between work, rest and entertainment of people in Hong Kong.
The Labour Party believed regulating working hours could help achieve a work-life balance. It suggests an 8-hour work day, a 44-hour standard work week, a 60-hour maximum work week and an overtime pay of 1.5 times the usual pay.
Poon Siu-ping of Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions thought that it is possible to set work hour limit for all industries; and the regulation on working hours can ensure the overtime payment by employers to employees, and protect employees’ health.
The Civic party suggests "to actively study setting weekly standard working hours at 44 hours to align with family-friendly policies" in LegCo Election 2012.
Member of Economic Synergy, Jeffery Lam, believes that standard working hours would adversely affect productivity, tense the employer-employee relationship, and increase the pressure faced by businesses who suffer from inadequate workers. He does not support the regulation on working hours at its current situation.
, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare Bureau, said the Executive Council has already received the government report on working hours in June, and the Labour Advisory Board and the LegCo's Manpower Panel will receive the report in late November and December respectively. On 26 November 2012, the Labour Department released the report, and the report covered the regimes and experience of practicing standard working hours in selected regions, current work hour situations in different industries, and the impact assessment of standard working hours. Also, Matthew Cheung mentioned that the government will form a select committee by first quarter of 2013, which will include government officials, representative of labor unions and employers’ associations, academics and community leaders, to investigate the related issues. He also said that it would "perhaps be unrealistic" to put forward a bill for standard working hours in the next one to two years.
Yip Siu-fai, Professor of the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of HKU, has noted that professions such as nursing and accountancy have long working hours and that this may affect people's social life. He believes that standard working hours could help to give Hong Kong more family-friendly workplaces and to increase fertility rates. Randy Chiu, Professor of the Department of Management of HKBU, has said that introducing standard working hours could avoid excessively long working hours of employees. He also said that nowadays Hong Kong attains almost full employment, has a high rental price and severe inflation, recently implemented minimum wage, and is affected by a gloomy global economy; he also mentioned that comprehensive considerations on macroeconomic situations are needed, and emphasized that it is perhaps inappropriate to adopt working-time regulation as exemplified in other countries to Hong Kong.
Lee Shu-Kam, Associate Professor of the Department of Economics and Finance of HKSYU, believes that standard working hours cannot deliver "work-life balance". He referenced the research to the US by the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999 and pointed out that in the industries and regions in which the wage elasticity is low, the effects of standard working hours on lowering actual working time and increasing wages is limited: for regions where the labor supply is inadequate, standard working hours can protect employees' benefits yet cause unemployment; but for regions where the problem does not exist, standard working hours would only lead to unemployment. In addition, he said the effect of standard working hours is similar to that of giving overtime pay, making employees to favor overtime work more. In this sense, introducing standard working hours does not match its principle: to shorten work time and to increase the recreation time of employees. He believed that the key point is to help employees to achieve work-life balance and to get a win-win situation of employers and employees.
Francis Lui, Head and Professor of the Department of Economics of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, believed that standard working hours may not lower work time but increase unemployment. He used Japan as an example to illustrate that the implementation of standard working hours lowered productivity per head and demotivated the economy. He also said that even if the standard working hours can shorten employees' weekly working hours, they may need to work for more years to earn sufficient amount of money for retirement, i.e. delay their retirement age. The total working time over the course of a lifetime may not change.
Lok-sang Ho, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies of Lingnan University, pointed out that "as different employees perform various jobs and under different degrees of pressures, it may not be appropriate to establish standard working hours in Hong Kong"; and he proposed a 50-hour maximum work week to protect workers' health.


In 2018, Taiwan had the world's 4th longest work hour and 2nd in Asia, with the average number of work hours hit 2,033 hours. There had been reduction in the work hours by 122 from 2008 to 2018.


enacts an 8-hour normal work day, a 44-hour normal working week, and a maximum 48-hour work week. It is to note that if the employee works no more than five days a week, the employee's normal working day is 9-hour and the working week is 44 hours. Also, if the number of hours worked of the worker is less than 44 hours every alternate week, the 44-hour weekly limit may be exceeded in the other week. Yet, this is subjected to the pre-specification in the service contract and the maximum should not exceed 48 hours per week or 88 hours in any consecutive two week time. In addition, a shift worker can work up to 12 hours a day, provided that the average working hours per week do not exceed 44 over a consecutive 3-week time. The overtime allowance per overtime hour must not be less than 1.5 times of the employee's hour basic rates.

Other countries

The Kapauku people of Papua think it is bad luck to work two consecutive days. The !Kung Bushmen work just two-and-a-half days per week, rarely more than six hours per day.
The work week in Samoa is approximately 30 hours, and although average annual Samoan cash income is relatively low, by some measures, the Samoan standard of living is quite good.
In India, particularly in smaller companies, someone generally works for 11 hours a day and 6 days a week. No overtime is paid for extra time. Law enforcement is negligible in regulating the working hours. A typical office will open at 09:00 or 09:30 and officially end the work day at about 19:00. However, many workers and especially managers will stay later in the office due to additional work load. However, large Indian companies and MNC offices located in India tend to follow a 5-day, 8- to 9-hour per day working schedule. The Government of India in some of its offices also follows a 5-day week schedule.
Nigeria has public servants that work 35 hours per week.

Recent trends

Many modern workplaces are experimenting with accommodating changes in the workforce and the basic structure of scheduled work. Flextime allows office workers to shift their working time away from rush-hour traffic; for example, arriving at 10:00 and leaving at 18:00. Telecommuting permits employees to work from their homes or in satellite locations, eliminating or reducing long commute times in heavily populated areas. Zero-hour contracts establish work contracts without minimum-hour guarantees; workers are paid only for the hours they work. There has also been interest in the 4-day work week, with various trials in the 2000s and 2010s.