Work hours in Turkey

The chart below is from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It shows the percentage of employees in each country who work more than 50 hours per week.

I looked for details about how the study was conducted but couldn’t find them. For example, I don’t know whether the study includes only full-time workers, also part-time workers, or the entire population with the capacity to work. I also don’t know if the study included only certain sectors, or how the data were collected. Specifically, were the data collected based on the actual check in and check out times of employees as recorded by a machine, or are they the results of a survey where employees were asked to self-report their working hours. The specific way in which the research was conducted could bias the results.

However, assuming that the results aren’t biased, they were very surprising to me. This is because, with 43.3%, Turkey has the greatest percentage of employees working more than 50 hours per week. The reason why this was surprising was because I had expected the results to be more correlated with countries’ economic output per capita. While Turkey is in the top third of the world’s countries in terms of GDP (adjusted for purchasing power parity) per capita, it falls behind countries like South Korea, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States¬†which the chart shows each have a smaller percentage of employees working more than 50 hours per week.¬†Therefore, working more hours isn’t enough. There’s a missing variable.

This variable is productivity. In other words, what matters is not simply how long you work but also how much output you produce per unit of work. And there are two forms of productivity. The first is human productivity and the second is technological productivity.

Examples of human productivity include thinking in a structured manner by linking causes and consequences in a multi-stage environment, trusting that each of your colleagues will get their work done when it’s delegated to them, running efficient meetings, and evaluating ideas and making decisions based on merit rather than titles and personal relationships. No single individual, let alone country, can excel on each of these dimensions. However, some individuals and the countries made up of these individuals perform better than others on this continuous spectrum.

Technological productivity requires being at least a user of, and where possible a producer of (as this, even if for a short time, allows you to have access to a productivity boosting technology not yet available to others, at its lower production cost) the latest hardware and software innovations in areas like manufacturing, communication, and transportation.

Productivity is the missing variable. It is these examples of productivity that Turkey needs to focus on to translate its long working hours into economic gains.