One In Five Worldwide Work ‘Excessively’ Long Hours

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) - Approximately 600 million people worldwide work more than 48 hours a week according to a study released Thursday.

The report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that an estimated 22 percent of the global labor force works ''excessively'' long hours, often just to make ends meet. Shorter working hours are better for the workers' health and family lives, reduce accidents at the workplace and lead to greater productivity and gender equality, the report said.

Globally, countries tend to limit working time to 40 hours a week, but many people in developing countries still work much more. A large part of the self-employed in rich countries also have very long working hours, according to the 160-page report entitled 'Working Time Around the World.'

Peru tops the list with 50.9 percent of its labor force working more than 48 hours a week in 2004-05, closely followed by South Korea with 49.5 percent and Ethiopia at 41.2 percent.

The United States is ranked 19th with 18.1 percent, doing worse than countries like Japan, Panama, Cyprus and Canada.

People employed in the manufacturing sector worldwide work between 35 and 45 hours a week on average, but much longer in a number of developing countries. Recent figures are often unavailable, but in Costa Rica, factory employees labored 50 hours a week in 2004. In Turkey they worked 52.2 hours a week in 2003.

Employees often have to work long hours just to earn a living but also because employers widely use overtime to increase company output, the report said.

Longer working hours is common in the service sector, in particular the wholesale and retail trades, hotels and restaurants, and the transport, storage and communications industries, which usually involve shift work.

Many self-employed people in industrialized countries work very long hours. This varies in developing countries where people seem to work either very long or short hours. Less than 35 hours a week is common for self-employed women in developing countries, the report said. The men generally work longer.

According to the report, the gender trend is world wide. In most countries men tend to work long hours while women work fewer hours, mainly because women do much ''unpaid'' work at home, including taking care of family members.

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