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What is it like to work in other countries?

what is it like to work in other countries

If you work in a multi-national company, you will no doubt have developed some opinions on how co-workers in different countries work and/or the working conditions they have.

It may be that you think certain countries always seem to have national holidays or that certain subsidiaries only work certain hours.

Well, all may not be as it seems, and the grass may not be greener on the other side after all.

Here, we look at some of the misconceptions people have about working in different countries.

Germany have the most holidays

Knowing which country gives the most statutory paid time off (PTO) to workers is difficult. Different sources report differently. Some add national holidays into the total or some just count the statutory allowance that companies have to offer.

It’s reported that some countries like Kuwait and Cambodia have 43 and 42 days respectively.

On the whole it seems that countries in the Middle East like Iran have the largest amount of PTO and European nations tend to have around 20-30 days annual leave.

Spare a thought for your colleagues in the United States as there is no statutory obligation for companies to offer vacation to their employees. However, most companies do however offer some form of paid time off.

In France the working week is only 35 hours

Well this perception, is not necessarily true. While there is legislation in France surrounding a 35 hour working week, staff can request to work above the limit and managers are not subject to the restriction.

There are countries, however, that work fewer hours according to the OECD. On average countries like Germany, Denmark and Norway tend to work fewer hours annually than the French.

Workers in Japan and South Korean work the longest hours

At the other end of the spectrum, the common thought is that workers in South Korea and Japan work the longest hours. The notion of ‘Salarymen’ in Japan has been documented for many years, which is why many believe everyone works long hours.

However, the OECD report that Mexico and Costa Rica work longer hours on average than workers in South Korea and Japan.

Of course – as with all statistics – they are open to question as some workers may under report or over report working hours to adhere to regulations.

Business Insider reports that Columbia is the country with the worst work/life balance. The average working week is 47.7 hours long, leaving little free time outside of work.

British workers always take a tea break at 11am

This would be nice, but unfortunately for your colleagues in the UK it isn’t necessarily true.

However, British workers are entitled to a 20 minute uninterrupted break during their working day if they work more than 6 hours a day.

In Sweden, employees usually take ‘Fika’, which essentially is going for a chat over a coffee and cake. This is not a law, but many Swedes tend to take a ‘Fika’ break for 10-30 minutes at 10:00am and 3:00pm.

It’s a social institution in Sweden and is meant to be good for employees’ mental health as it gives people the chance to chat, chill out and regather their thoughts before going back to work. So maybe ‘Fika’ should be embraced in more workplaces around the globe.

Speaking of Scandinavia, surely Nordic countries have the best maternity leave?

Countries like Sweden, Norway and Finland do have very good maternity leave policies.

However, according to a recent OECD report highlighted in The Independent it appears that Estonia, Bulgaria and Hungary have some of the best maternity leave policies.

The flip side of this is that three countries in the world do not offer any form of statutory paid maternity leave.

In China, workers are the most productive

Which country would you think is this the most productive? Perhaps China, Germany, or Japan? According to a report by the OECD it’s workers in Ireland who are most productive in the world.

It may be surprising, but with a large number of multi-national businesses locating their European headquarters on the ‘Emerald Isle’, these companies tend to drive large productivity gains.


As you can imagine if you work in a global HR function, managing all these different policies can be difficult. So if you had the choice, which country would you work in?

For most people it depends on what you value most and possibly even what stage of life you are at. In a globalized world working conditions and practices are more visible. This is especially the case if you work in a global HR function.

Our Global Payroll Complexity Index highlights the top 40 countries in terms of payroll complexity. This is based on some of the payroll trends occurring in countries around the world.

Maintaining a level playing field for employees as well as reflecting local working practices is a difficult line to balance.

As a result, you need to make sure your systems can deal with these unique traits each country has as well as being able to report on the facts about each country.

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