Canadian work ethic alive and well

(Imported from my old blog)

A few days ago, I was listening to Winnipeg talk radio host Richard Cloutier asking his audience whether or not Manitobans had lost their work ethic. As anyone who listens to his nine-to-noon show on CJOB will know, the work ethic is one of Cloutier’s favourite causes.

Sure enough, some of his guests chimed in with anecdotes about lazy employees and poor service.

But a few anecdotes is hardly a representative sampling. After all, who’s going to phone CJOB to talk about good employees and good service?

Next to nobody. And even if they did, they wouldn’t get much of a platform. Talking about things that aren’t a problem makes for boring radio.

But is the Canadian work ethic really dying? The evidence suggests that it’s not. In fact, the Canadian work ethic is alive and well.

For example, look at the following chart. Working Manitobans put an average of 1,716 hours into their jobs in 2006. In fact, the average Manitoban worked slightly longer than the average American (1,705 hours) and more than a full workweek longer than the average British worker (1,670 hours).

Average hours worked by jurisdiction (Stats Can 2006, OECD 2007)

The average Manitoban worked the equivalent of more than four weeks of full-time employment longer than the average French worker (1,533 hours) and seven workweeks longer than the average German worker (1,433 hours).

Mind you, we were outdone by the Japanese, famous for their long work hours. Well, only just.

The average Japanese worker managed to pack in less than the equivalent of two workweeks into the year (1,785 hours), or a mere four percent more time on the job than the average Manitoba worker. And the Japanese in turn could be seen as slackers compared to workers in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, P.E.I., the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Not convinced? There’s more:

  • Canada has one of the lowest rates of long-term unemployment in the industrialized world. In 2007, only eight percent of Canada’s unemployed had been out of work for a year or longer — half the 1997 rate. Compare that to France, where 40 percent of the unemployed had been out of a job for more than a year; or to Germany, where a staggering 57 percent of the unemployed had gone for a year or longer without work. Canadians had even been slightly quicker than Americans (10% of whose unemployed had been jobless for a year or more) to return to the workforce.
  • Canadians are more likely to be working, or looking for work, than citizens of many other countries. To get an idea of how intensely the people of a country are committed to work, find out the size of their labour force; that is, the number of people who are either working or actively looking for work. Then divide that by the number of people in the country between the ages of 15 and 64 — that is, of normal working age.
  • In 2006, about 78 percent of working age Canadians were actively involved in the country’s labour force. This put us even slightly ahead of Australia (77%), the United States (76%) and Britain (75%). It put us well ahead of Belgium (67%), France (69%), Greece (65%), Hungary (61%), Italy (64%), South Korea (69%) and Mexico (64%).
  • In fact, within the OECD, the only people we trailed in our commitment to work were the Danes (81%), the Icelanders (86%), the Japanese (80%), the Norwegians (80%), the Portuguese (79%), the Swedes (79%) and the Swiss (88%).
  • In the latest World Values Survey, Canadians were virtually as likely as Americans to say that they consider work to be a very important part of life (52% versus 54% respectively). This figure was also on par with China (50%), Ireland (51%) , Japan (49%), the Netherlands (48%), Singapore (53%) and Sweden (54%). In most of those cases where work was more likely to be viewed as very important, it tended to coincide with starvation being the end result of being out of work (e.g., 82% in Albania and 93% in Algeria).

So, the next time someone tells you that Canadians have a poor work ethic, tell them to apply their work ethic toward looking up the facts.

Sources: OECD, Statistics Canada.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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