A huge study by the International Labour Organisation [ILO], “Working Time Around The World” has researched working hours in 50 countries. Of the developed world, Britain works the longest hours. Elsewhere Peru and South Korea top the list.

The ILO defined long working hours as more than 48 hours a week, and looked at data for 2004-05. In the developed world, 25.7% of workers worked long hours, with Israel at 25.5 per cent, Australia at 20.4 per cent, Switzerland at 19.2 per cent, and the United States at 18.1 per cent.

In the developing world Peru topped the list at 50.9 per cent of workers, the Republic of Korea at 49.5 per cent, Thailand at 46.7 per cent, and Pakistan at 44.4 per cent.

The ILO says that attempts to reduce hours in these countries have been unsuccessful for various reasons, including the need of workers to work long hours to make ends meet and the widespread use of overtime by employers in an effort to increase output under conditions of low productivity. (This last point is certainly true of the UK, with its continuing low productivity rates compared to other affluenbt economies). In developing economies, laws and policies on working time have a limited influence on actual working hours.

Globally, it estimates that 22% of workers are working long hours. There’s a press release here: the report can be ordered online from the ILO.