Hard-working Mexicans upstage other OECD nations

People work in a maquiladora, or garment assembly plant, in Tehuacan, Mexico, in a file photo. REUTERS/Jennifer Szymaszek

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Mexicans work the longest days and Belgians the shortest, according to a study of 29 industrialized countries released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday.

The stereotype of a laid-back “manana” culture was turned on its head by the OECD’s “Society at a Glance” study, which showed Mexicans toil for 10 hours a day on average in paid and unpaid work, such as household chores. Belgians work just seven, an hour less than the average in most other OECD countries.

The study is based on surveys of people between the ages of 15 and 64 in 26 OECD member countries plus China, India and South Africa.

The surveys required people to say what they were doing every five minutes or so over the course of the day. The poll covered people in retirement or on days off from work, meaning the averages are skewed by countries with more generous holiday allowances or earlier retirement ages.

In Mexico, where tens of millions toil in an informal grey economy, low-paid workers often take only a handful of days off a year and work until they are elderly. A typical Belgian, on the other hand, will take several weeks of holiday a year and enjoy early retirement at around age 60.

On the basis of paid labor only, Japanese work the most, spending just over six hours a day at work on average, followed by South Koreans and then Mexicans. The Danish spend the least time -- less than four hours a day --in paid employment.

Looking at unpaid work, the OECD found Mexicans spend the most time doing housework, at more than three hours a day, and South Koreans the least -- one hour and 19 minutes a day.

Much of the time counted as unpaid work was spent cooking, where Americans spend the least time at half an hour per day and Turks spend the most time at a full 74 minutes.

The Paris-based organization said the value of unpaid work in the 25 countries studied amounted to the equivalent of one third of gross domestic product in the full OECD bloc.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas, editing by Paul Casciato