'French work week': Do they really work less?

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Cafe Senequier in Saint-Tropez, France,
Image caption,
The French take long holidays, but they have relatively high labour productivity

At the US Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush used the idea of a "French work week" to mock fellow contender Marco Rubio's patchy Senate voting record.

"You get like three days where you have to show up?" he asked.

By evoking the stereotype of lazy French employees wedded to their 35-hour week, Mr Bush was using a cliche about Gallic work culture.

The French do tend to work fewer hours than employees in most developed countries, but they put in longer hours than those in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, according to the OECD.

Media caption,

Jeb Bush: "You should be showing up to work"

French staff can request to work above the 35-hour limit, while managers are not subject to the restriction.

US workers, meanwhile, work many more hours than their French counterparts - 1,789 hours annually on average, compared with 1,473 for the French.

France's generous paid leave entitlements no doubt play a role in creating this gulf - 30 working days off a year in addition to 11 public holidays puts a serious dent in annual hours.

The US, in comparison, offers no legally mandated annual leave.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Despite the stereotypes, German workers actually put in less hours than French ones

The lower number of hours worked in France reflects in part a relatively high labour productivity - the amount of goods and services produced per hour of work.

In France the average is $64 per hour (£42), slightly more than Germany and well above the OECD average of $49.

Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States, tweeted about France's workforce productivity.

Image source, Twitter

The US sits a little higher at $67 per hour.

Mexicans work more than any other OECD nation - 2,228 hours per year on average - but only produce $20 per hour worked.

Why do Americans take so few days off?

Media caption,

The BBC asked people in Washington DC how many days they took off last year and watched them write that number down on a board.

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