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Americans work harder than Europeans, is it good or bad?

Americans work harder than Europeans, but many indicators tell we're better off in Europe, at least in some countries.Americans work harder than Europeans, is it good or bad?

Happy 1st of May my European fellows!

Speaking of labour, much has been said recently about the difference in work culture between Europe and the US.

Nicolai Tangen, boss of Norway’s titanic oil fund, recently told the Financial Times that Americans just work harder.

It is a factual statement. The average American works 1,811 hours per year, compared to approximately 1,500 hours across Northern Europe.

The Americans also make more money. Salaries are higher and workers are more productive.

As an economy develops and productivity increases, people can either maintain the same work hours and become wealthier, or work fewer hours for the same income.

The US clearly chose the former option, while Europe chose the latter.

But what is actually better?

Various indicators such as life expectancy, sustainability, health, and happiness suggest that Europe, particularly Northern Europe, is an ideal model to emulate.

I would add that it’s easy to choose to work shorter hours when you sit on a $1.6tn public fund, like it’s the case of Norway. The other Nordics share a similar situation with very small population and few huge profitable companies, like Novo Nordisk in Denmark.

Switzerland is also in a similar position, with many Swiss (maybe the majority?) choosing to work part-time, because why not.

But for all other Europeans the story is different.

You might be enticed by the Italian "Dolce Vita," lured by the promise of a great life with relatively small money. Spoiler alert, “La Dolce Vita” is not cheap and you’ll end up in broken dreams and misery.

The reality is, in today’s economy, the developed world must continue to work hard, not for improving its quality of life, but simply to maintain it.

However, the American model is also not the best example.

On average, Americans live to 77.5, while Spaniards to 83, despite being poorer. According to the Financial Times, only 30% of Americans are truly engaged with their work and willing to put in extra hours. 20% are just miserable, and the remaining 50% merely show up. Therefore, only a fraction of Americans work harder and earn more than the average European. In contrast, we all tend to work and earn roughly the same.

Which model would you prefer?

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