Photo: Molly Lipscomb
  • According to a new data visualisation by an Italian blog, South Africans work the longest hours per year (2,200) in the world.
  • It surpassed South Korea in 2005.
  • A recent survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), also showed that South Africans have one of the longest work weeks - 50% longer than the Netherlands.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.


At this time of year, it would not surprise exhausted South Africans to learn that they are among the people who work the longest hours in the world.

This is according to a new data visualisation by the Italian blog Statistics & Data, which claims that South Africans worked more than 2,200 hours a year in 2017 – the longest of all countries.

The visualisation tracks working hours from 1950 to 2018 and is based on figures compiled by Our World In Data, and according to Statistics & Data, includes academic research, including by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The video shows South Korea dominating as the country with the longest working hours since 1950, consistently averaging at more than 2,500 hours a year. In the 1970s, India started to rise up the ranks, and in the 1980s, China followed.

But since 2001, South Africa has been among the top two countries with the longest hours, surpassing South Korea in 2005. This is despite 12 public holidays in South Africa. Countries like the UK and the Netherlands have only eight. But South Africa still has fewer public holidays than countries like India (18) and Japan (16).

Take a look at the video:

The visualisation corresponds with a recent 40-country survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which showed that South Africans have one of the longest workweeks in the world.

READ: South Africa has one of the longest workweeks in the world - here's how we compare

While the international average workweek was 36.8 hours in 2018, South Africans with jobs were working 42.9 hours. This was with the fifth longest work week in the world – and almost 50% longer than the working hours of a country like the Netherlands (29 hours).

Also, almost a fifth of South Africans worked more than 50 hours in a week.

But only 44% of South Africans aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, far below the OECD average of 68%.

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