Today I had a meeting at a very large Japanese company. Part of the meeting took place in Japanese so I had a chance to observe the faces of the people who I was meeting with more detail as I could not understand what they said. In so doing I could notice tremendous signs of fatigue. And this was not only true of this meeting but of many meetings that I attended. Especially with executives of large companies. Doing some more research on this I learned about the famous last trains of Tokyo, which run around 1130 and how packed they are. This means that many people stay at the office from 9am to 11pm. And then they commute for over an hour on the average. Now what I can´t understand is how come in Europe we work so much less and yet enjoy a similar standard of living.

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kolja on March 19, 2008  · 

good question, and puzzles me all the time also. Guess, living costs are still way too high in Japan and maybe they safe more?

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Paul RODTS on March 19, 2008  · 

How come in Europe we work so much less and yet enjoy a similar standard of living…? Europe isn’t one culture. In my observation there is a big difference between the several european countries and peoples…From all the european countries, I like Italy the most. For their friendship, their polite way of doing business and what a beautiful country it is !! For Italians, their family life is more important than a professional deadline. Is this smart ? Maybe it is, because they have a great quality of life ànd the help and support of their family in case of emotional or financial problems…
Also in my country their is a difference between two cultures…In my experience, when I step into the office in Flanders in the weekend, I will not be alone, and probably meet co-workers working overtime…In the southern part of Belgium, people are more interested in their personal life than in office life…If Belgium is Europe in a nutshell, who is right, who is wrong ? Flanders has 4 times less unemployment than the rest of my country, but much more suicides…So tell me what is best ?

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Josep Pocalles on March 20, 2008  · 

Hi Paul, just depends on YOUR life priorities. Always you will find better and wrong examples in every aspect of personal and professional behaviour. People who doesn´t have time is because don´t have clear priorities.


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Henning on March 20, 2008  · 

interessting study!
but i’m surprised to hear it from you – as an entrepreneur who has founded several companies, i would have expected you to have similar working hours to those mentioned in your post…!?

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peter on March 20, 2008  · 

so, “Karoshi” – – doesn´t seem to be so far away from many of the top-management guys of this “big company” you mentioned above…. isn´t it?

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Martin Varsavsky on March 20, 2008  · 

Didn’t know about Karoshi, but it only confirms than what I experienced is a real problem.

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Martin Varsavsky on March 20, 2008  · 

Well Henning,

I do work hard, but i don´t work from 9am to 11pm with eating at the office!

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Andreas on March 24, 2008  · 

Japan doesn’t use very much of the female brain power. That is a major factor.

Tolerant societys also tend to create economic wealth. Japan is kind of the opposite.

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Dave Burstein on March 25, 2008  · 


An interesting related comment is the income differential between Europe and the U.S. Before the recent devaluation, U.S. income by most measures was ahead of most of Western Europe, which was loudly proclaimed by some chauvinists. However, given the long work week typical here (over 50 hours) and high proportion of women working, it turns out that U.S. income per hour worked was lower than many in Europe.

Separately, you might be amused by another consequence of the dollar devaluation. Not long ago, I could speak of DSL in Europe as being half the price of the U.S., and Canada also substantially cheaper. When 30 euro is more than $45, that’s not so. Although Xavier’s 30 euro triple play at still puts to shame anything in the U.S.

Dave Burstein

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