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By Sean Gorman February 29, 2016

Contrary to Bernie Sanders, U.S. workers don't put in the most hours

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told supporters at a Feb. 23 rally in Norfolk, Va. that Americans are the hardest-working people in the developed world.

"Here’s something else I want everybody here to know: Japanese are very hard-working people," the Democratic presidential candidate said. "We work longer hours than any people in the industrialized world, including the Japanese."

We asked Warren Gunnels, the policy director for the Sanders campaign, for the basis of the candidate’s statement. He pointed us to a January post by a personal finance blog, 20somethingfinance, which said the U.S. is "the most overworked developed nation in the world."

The post said that the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency that tracks global workforce trends, has found that U.S. workers on average work more hours than the Japanese, French and British.

But those are only three developed countries. We found a list from the Central Intelligence Agency and another from the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund - better known as UNICEF - showing there’s about three dozen industrialized nations.

Most of those countries are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 34 democratic nations - almost all with advanced economies - seeking to improve trade relations. The OECD keeps data on the average yearly hours put in by workers in each of its member countries.

The statistics show that in 2014, the latest year available, the average U.S. worker toiled 1,789 hours on the job, higher than the average of 1,770 hours among all the countries in the OECD.

Employees in Japan, whom Sanders mentioned in his remarks, put in an average 1,729 hours a year - or 60 hours less than their American counterparts. Workers in many other nations, including all of the other members of the G-7 major developed countries of Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany, also worked fewer hours than Americans.

But it’s clear there is a group of industrialized countries where workers put in greater average hours than those in the U.S. They are:

•Greece, 2,042 hours worked;

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•Iceland, 1,864 hours;

•Portugal, 1,857 hours;

•Israel, 1,853 hours; and

•Ireland, 1,821 hours.

Workers in Hungary, South Korea, Poland and Turkey also logged more hours than U.S. employees. Some international organizations list those four countries as industrialized, while others do not.

Let’s get back to Sanders, who long has maintained that most Americans are putting in longer hours as part of his argument that the nation’s economic system is tilted to benefit the very wealthy.

PolitiFact National last fact-checked a Sanders statement on working hours in March 2011 and gave a False rating to the senator’s claim that Americans "now work the longest hours of any people around the world." We should note that Sanders made a narrower statement in Norfolk, where he limited his comparison of American workers to those from other industrialized nations.

Our ruling

Sanders said, "We work longer hours than any people in the industrialized world, including the Japanese."

No doubt, American workers put in more hours than their cohorts in most of the roughly three dozen industrialized nations. But Sanders goes too far in putting the U.S. as No. 1. Depending on whose list of developed nations you use, there are at least five, and as many as nine, countries with workers spending more time on the job than those in the U.S.

We rate Sanders’ statement Mostly False.

Editors Note: The original version of this story listed an incorrect figure for how many fewer hours Japanese employees worked compared to Americans in 2014.

Our Sources

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ comments at Norfolk rally at Scope arena, Feb. 23, 2016.

Email from Warren Gunnels, policy director for the Bernie Sanders campaign, Feb 24, 2016.

20Something Finance, "The U.S. is the most overworked developed nation in the world -- When do we draw the line," Jan. 4, 2016.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "Average annual hours actually worked per worker," accessed Feb. 24, 2016.

International Labour Organization, "Americans work longest hours among industrialized countries, Japan second largest," Sept. 6, 1999.

International Labour Organization, "New study highlights labour trends worldwide: U.S. productivity up, Europe improves ability to create jobs," Sept. 1, 2003.

International Labor Office, "Key indicators of the labour market,"  Nov. 15, 2015.

National Bureau of Economic Research, "Long workweeks and strange hours," September 2014.

PolitiFact, "Sen. Bernie Sanders says Americans now work the longest hours of any people around the world," March 14, 2011.

Email from Gary Burtless, economist at the Brookings Institution, Feb. 24, 2016

Email from Peter Forster, spokesman for the International Labour Organization, Feb. 25, 2016.

CIA World Factbook, "Developed countries," accessed Feb. 24, 2016.

UNICEF, "Industrialized countries," accessed Feb. 24, 2016.

United Nations, "Country classification," 2014.

The New York Times, "Americans international lead in hours worked grew in 90s, report shows," Sept. 1, 2001.

International Monetary Fund, "Classifications of countries based on their level of development: How it is done and how it could be done," 2011.

Bernie Sanders, "Jeb Bush says you’re not working hard enough," July 9, 2015.

CNN, "Bernie Sanders takes on Clinton, Bush," July 10, 2015.

The Hill, "Sanders to Bush: Americans need better wages, not longer hours," July 9, 2015.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "Definition of hours worked," accessed Feb. 26, 2016.

Fortune, "Americans work hard, but people in these 15 countries work longer hours," Nov. 11, 2015.

The New York Times, "South Koreans work most hours," May 12, 2010.

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