By Kevin Ward
The average Canadian spent fewer hours on the job over the last two decades, reflecting a trend across a large chunk of the industrialized world, says a new report.
The average Canadian worker spent 1,718 hours at work in 2003, but in 1979 the number of hours worked annually by full- and part-time workers was 1,785 on average, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said.
That means, based on a 52-week work year, the average Canadian worker toiled for about 34 hours and 20 minutes a week in 1979, compared with roughly 33 hours a week in 2003.
Canadians worked 74 fewer hours on average in 2003 than their American counterparts, but lag well behind the almost 2,400 hours worked by the average South Korean.
Workers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Mexico, Spain and Greece also worked longer hours than Canadians.
Norwegians spent the least time at work with 1,337 hours on the job in 2003, followed by the Netherlands at 1,354 hours.
In the report, the Paris-based OECD encouraged its 30 member states to take social objectives into account when looking at job strategies. It highlighted reforms to employment protection legislation as an example, saying such changes can lead to the creation of short-term and insecure jobs.
"On the one hand, less strict employment protection legislation may make it easier for employers to hire workers, thereby improving the job chances of groups which are subject to entry problems, such as young people and women," it said in a news release.
"But this can also damage job security and sometimes put undue emphasis on the creation of temporary forms of employment."
The OECD also noted the impact of flexible work hours in boosting employment.
"Expanding options to work part-time can make it easier for parents with young children to combine working and parenting and for some older workers to extend their careers, while greater flexibility of working hours can help firms adjust to changing work loads," it said.
The organization adopted a jobs strategy 10 years ago to cut "high and persistent unemployment." Labour ministers decided last year to reassess the strategy.
John Martin, the OECD's director for employment, labour and social affairs, said the strategy has had mixed results.
"For one thing, high unemployment has not disappeared," he wrote.
"True, OECD unemployment is somewhat below its pre-1994 rates and the latest OECD projections point to some reduction in unemployment rates over the next two years... But this would still leave unemployment rates in many countries higher than they were in the 1970s and 1980s."
Between 1991 and 2001, Canada's unemployment rate stood at an average of 9.2 per cent. The OECD forecasts this year's unemployment rate at 7.3 per cent, dropping to 7.1 per cent in 2005. It was 7.6 per cent in 2003.
The numbers mean that in 2004, about 1.3 million Canadians will be out of work, which drops to 1.2 million in 2005.
Across the OECD, the report forecasts an unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent for this year and 6.7 per cent in 2005.
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