How many hours a week should Canadians be working?

Thomas Bink

Home to Toronto – the financial capital of Canada - you might think Ontario has the longest work week in Canada. But it turns out Albertans work the hardest, racking up an average of 39 hours per week compared to the average Canadian, who works 36.6 hours per week. Quebecers have the shortest average work week with only 35.4 hours. Do these numbers surprise you?

Thomas Bink: No, this doesn't really surprise me. Maybe I'm a little disappointed that the Canadian average is only around 36 hours – Everyone says that they're terribly busy, but I'm sure this stat is pretty low compared to other countries around the world and I'm thinking we've all got to put in a few more hours in order to compete internationally. The Chinese average is 44 work hours a week.

Matthew Coutts: The Quebec number being the lowest doesn’t surprise me. It’s got a bit of a European essence to it, what with their siestas and extended lunch breaks. But I guess that comparison doesn’t really cut it, does it? It seems implausible that Canadians don’t put in an average of 40 hours of work per week. Maybe this is a case of working smarter, not longer? My faith in the industriousness of the Canadian people is a little shaken here.

Andy Radia: Those numbers don't really surprise me. I think there are several factors at play with regard to the seemingly low numbers. I think the provincial differences can be attributed to booming economies that have labour shortages (see Alberta and Saskatchewan). Those economies require longer hours. And I think Matt is right about international differences – Canadian workers have always been more efficient. So why are we always so busy? We're always so busy because our commutes are getting longer: The average Ontarian, for example, now spends 80 minutes commuting to and from work every day. And people seem to be working more on the road and after hours at home, checking emails and reading on their smart phones. I'm not sure StatsCan incorporated those numbers.

Bink: At the same time, I guess there's something to be said about taking time to smell the roses. Canadians get some the least vacation time around the globe, so we're putting in a few more 36-hour weeks than our friends in France or the UK. And there is something to be said about a "work hard, play hard" mentality – being effective at the job and then taking full advantage of the time we have away from work to enjoy ourselves. And you're right, Andy – I'm sure long hours on oil rigs in Alberta are skewing the numbers.

Coutts: I think you have both hit on the key issue with these numbers. They seem to suggest that Canadians are not working as hard as other nations, but the outside considerations may not make that a reality. Factor in commutes and vacation time and I’d guess the numbers tell a different story. That’s what surprised me about the numbers. Everyone complains about how busy they always are, and yet we’re not working 40 hours a week? We should calculate in the amount of time spent complaining about how much work we have, just to pad our stats a bit.

Bink: Hear hear. There isn't much surprising here. Now I've got to get back to work.