The image of the laid-back, sun-bronzed Aussie relaxing on the beach took a major hit yesterday with new evidence showing Australians are working the longest hours in the developed world.
They are working so hard, in fact, that they risk making themselves sick, with higher than usual rates of stress, anxiety and depression, according to the research by the Australia Institute think-tank.
The analysis of countries including the US, Japan, Germany and France showed Australians, even if they had used up their annual leave, could take the rest of this year off and still have worked the same average number of hours of other industrialized countries.
"Whilst Australians often think of themselves as living in the land of the long weekend, they are now working the longest hours in the developed world and in fact are at risk of working themselves sick," Institute director Clive Hamilton said. He said Australian employees work an average of 1,855 hours a year compared with the developed country average of 1,643. Their Norwegian counterparts work just 1,376 hours a year on average, he added.
"Australians work harder than the super-efficient Germans, the Americans and even the Japanese who are known for the phenomenon of karoshi or `death by overwork,'" Hamilton said.
To bring their annual working hours down to the average, Australian employees would have to take their legislated four weeks' annual leave, then stop working from Nov. 20 until Dec. 31, he said.
While the number of public holidays enjoyed by Australian workers is on a par with the average of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the annual leave entitlement is below the European average of five weeks a year.
"Australians are paying the price for overwork," Hamilton said.
"They are reporting higher degrees of stress and anxiety, and obesity, depression and heart disease are on the rise."
Shorter working hours in economically sound nations such as Switzerland, Germany and the Britain demonstrated that long working days were not necessary for economic strength, he added.
"On the contrary, working to the point where our personal and community bonds are weakened is not only economically inefficient, it is socially irresponsible," Hamilton said.