A new survey from UBS (Investor Release – UBS study: «Prices and Earnings» 2009) has shown that the French continue to work the least amount of hours per year in the world. Once again, the French have blown away the competition.
People work an average of 1,902 hours per year in the surveyed cities but they work much longer in Asian and Middle Eastern cities… People in Lyon and Paris, by contrast, spend the least amount of time at work according to the global comparison: 1,582 and 1,594 hours per year respectively.
Upon seeing this data, some might criticize the French for being lazy, but that misses the point completely. The real message here is that the French are likely some of the most productive people in the entire world.
Think about it:
- The goal for any company is to earn the highest profits/returns with the least costs (costs of raw materials, labor, utilities… the “inputs”). We easily accept this relationship as optimal and good.
- Well, the same applies to people as workers: the goal is to earn the highest income for the least cost/effort (which is one’s labor, hours worked). Work, itself, is not an end. So, those who receive the highest incomes per hours worked have earned the best returns/profits and highest quality of life.
Nationmaster ranks France as #18 in terms of GDP per capita, at $36,500 per person, yet France works much less than most developed nations. They achieve their high standard of living while working 16% less hours than the average world citizen, and almost 25% than their Asian peers as per UBS. Plus, if you visit France you’ll also realize that their actual standard of living is probably much higher than GDP numbers would indicate.
Thus, dividing France’s GDP per capita by actual hours worked, one finds that the French are achieving some of the highest returns on work-hours invested. Labor Alpha, if you will.
We can actually calculate this Labor Alpha using statistics from Nation Master:
- France has $36,500 GDP/Capita and works 1,453 hours per year. This equates to a GDP/Capita/Hour of $25.10.
- America, on the other hand, has $44,150 GDP/Capita but work 1,792 hours per year. Thus Americans only achieve $24.60 of GDP/Capita/Hour.
This puts the French Labor Alpha at about $0.50 GDP/Capita/Hour over the US. It may sound small at first, but add that up across millions of people, and a few decades. Now you’ve built a lesson for the rest of the world to learn.
Winning isn’t about working hard. It’s about working smart… and less. The French know.