According to a report issued in early September, Americans work harder, produce more, and get more done in an hour than do the citizens of other countries. Well, almost: the only ones who surpass us are in the third category. Norwegians have a higher per-hour output than Americans.
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.
Only part of the U.S. productivity growth, which has outpaced that of many other developed economies, can be explained by the longer hours Americans are putting in, the ILO said.
The U.S., according to the report, also beats all 27 nations in the European Union, Japan and Switzerland in the amount of wealth created per hour of work — a second key measure of productivity.
Norway, which is not an EU member, generates the most output per working hour, $37.99, a figure inflated by the country’s billions of dollars in oil exports and high prices for goods at home. The U.S. is second at $35.63, about a half dollar ahead of third-place France.
What is the reason for the US lead? According to the ILO, it hinges on information technology:
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.
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.
The report fails to mention that “lack of investment in training, etc.” is a top-down decision in many states that are run by oligarchies whose main interest in holding onto power. It is impossible to build an entrepreneurial middle class while immersed in a sea of corruption and lack of accountability by government.
The report also omits two frequent drawbacks to high productivity: endless bureaucratic regulatory red tape and government corruption.
The fact that the US has managed to keep its head above water does not mean it will continue to do so. Given the ever-increasing bloat of federal, state, and local government workers(estimated by some at forty per cent of all jobs), and the heightened pressure of lobbyists, we may well fall behind in the coming years.
But how about those Norwegians, huh?