The first Monday in September is Labor Day here in the U.S. as I’m sure most of you know. Unlike most holidays Labor Day honors the average worker and this year the average American worker gets to celebrate a little more after the International Labor Organization declared us the most productive workers in the world for 2006.
The average U.S. worker produces $63,885 of wealth per year, more than their counterparts in all other countries, the International Labor Organization said in its report. Ireland comes in second at $55,986, followed by Luxembourg at $55,641, Belgium at $55,235 and France at $54,609.
A part of the reason for the productivity was that Americans spend more time working. You put in more time you tend to produce more. Still the extra hours alone didn’t account for the production since workers in seven Asian nations put in more time.
Average productivity is calculated simply enough.
The productivity figure is found by dividing the country’s gross domestic product by the number of people employed. The U.N. report is based on 2006 figures for many countries, or the most recent available.
The calculation above makes me think how the ILO determined who is and isn’t a worker. I’m not employed by any company and wouldn’t show up on employment records, but since I do file taxes I assume I’m counted as being one of the employed. Throughout the course of my life I’ve certainly met quite a few people who worked, but not necessarily on the books. These people would not be counted as employed, though I doubt the numbers would be enough to skew the ILO results much and I assume the same kind of practice occurs in most nations.
Information and communications technologies appear to be reason for the increased productivity here in the States.
America’s increased productivity “has to do with the ICT (information and communication technologies) revolution, with the way the U.S. organizes companies, with the high level of competition in the country, with the extension of trade and investment abroad,” said Jose Manuel Salazar, the ILO’s head of employment.
One cause of concern the study notes is the widening gap between the wealthiest and poorest nations.
The ILO report warned that the widening of the gap between leaders such as the U.S. and poorer nations has been even more dramatic.
Laborers from regions such as southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East have the potential to create more wealth but are being held back by a lack of investment in training, equipment and technology, the agency said.
There is good news for other nations.
China and other East Asian countries are catching up quickest with Western countries. Productivity in the region has doubled in the past decade and is accelerating faster than anywhere else, the report said.
Workers in East Asia are still only about one-fifth as productive as laborers in industrialized countries.
For today, though I hope everyone will give the U.S. its due. We spend more time working than most nations and manage to get more done during that time. Yes our leaders can make decisions that many in the world disagree with, but the average person here works a lot and can use a day off especially one honoring our efforts.
I’ll be taking the rest of the day off to enjoy the extended weekend and celebrate the holiday with friends. For those of you in the U.S. have a good Labor Day knowing that you put in a lot of time last year and deserve a day off. For those outside the U.S. you deserve a day off too, but I hope your Monday will be a good one to start the week.