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PolitiFact: Americans don't work the longest hours

The statement

"We now work the longest hours of any people around the world."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a C-SPAN interview

The ruling

Sanders' office forwarded us a news release from the International Labor Organization, a London-based United Nations agency that oversees international labor standards.

According to the story, "US workers put in the longest hours on the job in industrialized nations, clocking up nearly 2,000 hours per capita in 1997, the equivalent of almost two working weeks more than their counterparts in Japan where annual hours worked have been gradually declining since 1980, according to a new statistical study of global labour trends published by the International Labour Office."

This fact-check seemed like a slam dunk until we saw the date of the news release: Sept. 6, 1999. And it was based on 1997 data.

We contacted the International Labor Office for more recent statistics. They provided a spreadsheet from 2008, which shows the United States ranked eighth (out of 28) when it comes to the annual number of hours actually worked per person.

Topping the list was Greece, where people logged an average of 2,120 hours. Also working longer hours: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Mexico, Iceland and Italy.

The United States, where people worked an average of 1,792 hours, did nudge out Japan, where the average was 1,771 hours.

We also checked with the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a group of 32 large, industrialized democracies, which tracks these kinds of statistics. Their report showed a nearly identical number of hours worked by Americans in 2008, 1,796. But in the OECD report, which tracked more countries, the U.S. ranked 12th (out of 35). In addition to the ILO list of countries working more hours, the OECD listed Korea, Russia, Estonia and Israel.

While the data shows Americans work longer hours than the average for industrialized nations, the number of hours worked by Americans has been gradually declining over the last decade. And according to the ILO, we no longer work the longest hours. In fact, that hasn't been true for over a decade. And according to OECD statistics, the United States hasn't even cracked the Top 10 in over a decade.

Sanders said, "We now work the longest hours of any people around the world." We rule his statement False.

Edited for print. For more rulings, go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Americans don't work the longest hours 03/15/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 12:03am]
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