15 of the World’s Most Productive Countries


Who's getting it done?

One-fifth of Japanese workers put in more than 80 hours’ overtime per month. The average Dane clocks off at 4pm. A typical Finn works 14 per cent less than the global average. Here are the countries getting the job done and then some – all with varying periods of input.

1. Luxembourg

The most productive country in the world, according to Expert Market’s annual analysis, this pocket-sized European state is big on work-life balance. Luxembourgians are at liberty to arrange their outside interests and commitments around an average work week of only 29 hours – and receive a minimum of five weeks paid leave every single year.

2. Norway

Scandinavia’s productivity king is Norway, according to last year’s Global Productivity Report. Boasting a 27-hour working week, its workers are more than twice as productive as those in the UK and Israel. Not to mention cheerier. Norway topped the World Happiness Report last year, beating out Denmark in the smile stakes.

3. Switzerland

Spending just over 30 hours a week at the office, the Swiss also relish the reliability of a punctual train system, and are among the fittest folk in Europe, both of which no doubt have considerable bearing on their productivity. They consistently top the World Happiness Report.

4. Denmark

An unswerving frontrunner in the productivity race, Denmark is praised for having the best work-life balance in the world. The average Dane works 33 hours a week, clocks off at 4pm and, in a culture where overtime is frowned upon, would likely be deemed disorganised (rather than dedicated) for staying a moment later.

5. Iceland

This Nordic nation jumped 10 spots between 2016 and 2017 to fifth in the world in Expert Market’s productivity report. Iceland also ranks well when it comes to quality of life, and lays claim to a ‘women-friendly’ workforce, seated steadily atop the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index.

6. United States

Americans are a bit wobbly when it comes to work-life balance, working an average of 47 hours a week, and with 25 per cent of their employees receiving no holiday leave. But, contrary to the general trend of less desk time equalling higher rates of productivity, the US is a rare example of long hours paying off monetarily.

7. Australia

Studies have shown that Aussies value flexibility and the freedom to work remotely over a sizeable pay cheque. But they’re getting bang for their buck on the hours they do work (around 35 a week), and have one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world – showing that you don’t have to live in Europe to work smarter, not harder.

8. Ireland

Google and other US tech giants are setting up shop on the Emerald Isle, lured by its low corporate tax rate and productive workforce. The latter made world headlines in 2015, when Ireland enjoyed a boost to its economy of more than 26 per cent (a figure described as ‘unprecedented’ by the country’s Central Statistics Office).

9. Netherlands

The living (and working) is easy in the Netherlands, where many folk opt to work part-time, and employees have the right to request a job with ‘relaxed hours’. While the Dutch are delegated a fairly standard 20 days of annual paid leave, they’re gifted a cash bonus – totalling 8 per cent of their salary – right before summer holidays.

10. Sweden

While their experiment with a six-hour work day was met with mixed reviews (props for trying), the Swedes are a very productive bunch – perhaps due to the fact that only 1 per cent of them work more than 50 hours a week (compared to 11 per cent in the US), and 480 days of leave are given to parents after having a baby or adopting.

11. Germany

This industrial powerhouse has a policy of kurzarbeit, or shorter working hours, in an effort to tackle unemployment and spread work between its citizens (it saw 1.5 million German workers keep their jobs at the pointy end of the GFC). With a 35-hour working week, and 24 paid days of leave, the Germans work hard and play hard.

12. Finland

Despite being shrouded in darkness for much of the year, Finnish capital Helsinki has been hailed as a hotspot for start-ups and millennials, with a working culture that promotes mental wellbeing. The typical Finn spends just under six-and-a-half hours on the job each day of a five-day working week – 14 per cent less than the global average.

13. Canada

Although Canada’s work-life balance ratio is questionable (56 per cent of full-timers reportedly stay back at the office, while almost as many work at home on the weekends), the country does boast a famously efficient workforce. Additionally, a new government program combating sedentary behaviour in the workplace is helping workers prioritise self-care.

14. France

Having banished work emails after-hours by way of a new ‘right to disconnect’ in January 2017, the land of extended lunches and generous holiday policies (the average employee can expect 30 days of paid leave a year) has long enjoyed a law, enacted in 2000, that reduced the working week from 39 to 35 hours.

15. Japan

Death from overwork, or karoshi, is an actual thing in Japan – but that doesn’t prevent workers from toiling away for top yen. Fortunately, the Japanese government has proposed capping overtime at 60 hours a month (20 per cent of the workforce clock more than 80 hours at present), and have asked companies to let staff knock off early on Fridays.

Read More: The Best Productivity Apps to Help You Stay Focused This Year


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