Why Is Productivity Important to Certain Cultures?

April 4, 2018 • Zachary Amos


People in the United States frequently complain they have too much work, all while looking for the best tools to maintain productivity. But how does the worker output in the United States compare to what employees do elsewhere? And do all nations value the same measures of productivity? Let’s find out.

GDP Measurements Are Common Indicators of Productivity

One of the most widely used ways to measure productivity is a country’s gross domestic product, also known as its GDP. Economists calculate it by adding up the total dollar value of all goods produced in a given period, usually a year.

If a nation has a low GDP, but a high percentage of employees who rarely take time off, perhaps the people have too much work and little evidence of their labors.

Concerning GDP, the United States is the most productive nation, followed by China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, the last of which is composed of several countries. Besides looking at the dollar value of goods produced, some analysts also divide a county’s GDP by its population.

That’s perhaps an even better way than the previous method to determine whether citizens have too much work to accomplish.

Industry-Specific Productivity Data Often Requires a Close Look

Sometimes, a lack of productivity relates to particular industries. Such is the case in parts of Africa that have substantial farming sectors. Studies indicate employees from non-agricultural sectors get more done than their peers with agricultural jobs in sub-Saharan Africa.

National data suggested people working in agriculture were up to six times less productive than those in other industries. Notably, though, a more in-depth investigation revealed the productivity gap almost disappears when viewing work output accomplished hourly across sectors. Because people from non-agricultural sectors work more, it appears they’re more productive than Africa’s agricultural workers.

Productivity Isn’t Always a Priority

A Google search that includes the word “productivity” reveals many apps, blogs, tips and techniques meant to boost how much work people finish.

In the United States, many companies use time trackers to figure out exactly how long it takes workers to complete assigned tasks. However, in other countries, research shows business leaders don’t even look at productivity as a metric.

An investigation of 1,400 small and medium-sized businesses in the United Kingdom, France and Germany found almost three out of every 10 respondents did not measure productivity at all. Also, one in 20 respondents admitted to not knowing what constitutes productivity.

Productivity in Relation to Parenting

Many parents-to-be assume their productivity will plummet as soon as their kids are born. That’s because they’re looking at the most traditional definitions of productivity. In the case of child-rearing, though, it may be necessary for a viewpoint adjustment that measures productivity as time spent while working on goals.

If a person’s goal is to raise a child to be a responsible, thoughtful citizen, he or she is showing productivity while parenting.

In Russia, many fathers opt to take a distant approach to parenting, often leaving the duties to the mother of the household. Interestingly, some Russian moms supervise up to 20 kids at once, while the other moms associated with those kids handle household chores.

In a culture that treats child-rearing as a collective effort, one could consider the people involved to be productive if all kids in a neighborhood stay safe and mostly happy on a given day.

Measures of Productivity Beyond GDP

When deciding whether to give you a promotion, GDP almost certainly doesn’t factor into the conversation you have with your boss. However, other measures such as speed might. That’s why it’s important to consider other factors.

An analysis of Redbooth task-related survey data from 40 countries looked at non-GDP measurements of productivity across three years.

Peru works the fastest and finishes 64 percent of tasks within a week. Also, people from the Czech Republic complete more than 84 percent of tasks, giving it the top ranking for completion rate.

A separate study by DeskTime found Ireland was the most productive nation for time spent using employer-identified productive computer apps.

Should Workers in the United States Take More Time Off?

The 40-hour workweek is common in the U.S., plus the country’s workers typically get less time off than those in European nations. In France, many employees have 35-hour workweeks, and people who work longer get compensated with higher wages or more time off. That’s just one example, but it shows productivity is possible with shorter days.

This brief overview illustrates how productivity as you perceive it may not be identical in another nation. Knowing what you do now, has your definition of productivity become more diverse than before you read this piece?