Measuring how hard a country works is difficult. Each country wants to boast having the best workers, but it is a hard metric to measure. Some countries boast having low unemployment rates as proof of having the best workers, while other countries point to their higher than average earnings for employees.
Others argue they have the best workers because of how many hours employees put into work on average. All of these are important statistics, but no single trait is indicative of having the best workers.
Even if it is a hard question to answer, it is helpful for employees to compare themselves against other employees across the globe. Looking at why employees fare better in certain parts of the world is a good opportunity to recognize opportunities to grow locally. In some cases, looking at global working trends also helps predict future job trends, or gives job seekers who work abroad a better idea where their services are most appreciated.
The unemployment rate has decreased significantly, and it is currently at 3.6 percent as of February 2023. Economists and the Federal Reserve estimate the unemployment rate will drop further. Given the size of the United States, this is even more impressive. There are other countries with lower unemployment rates, but with the exception of China which is within .10 percent of the United States, no other country on the list has nearly the same population size.
Average Income Across the World
Having a low unemployment rate is important, but it is only one piece of data. One of the problems currently facing American workers in 2023 is a lack of quality jobs. Many college graduates are forced to take either part-time jobs, or jobs they are overqualified for. Part of this is due to an overly competitive job market. Workers are retiring later, and more employees are applying for second jobs, even jobs below their qualifications.
Likewise, insufficient pay raises are driving employee turnowver. The country is currently experiencing higher expenses due to more aggressive inflation rates. For instance, the consumer price index rose 7.7 percent.
In 2023, the average wage in the United States is $53,490. Studies showed that the average pay is projected to increase 4.6 percent, which is a slight increase from last year.
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Even with stagnant growth, the United States ranks as the 9th best country overall in terms of annual income. While these numbers are impressive, it is important to keep in mind countries have varying costs of living, with the United States having one of the highest.
Global Income Increases
Economics view expected income growth as a good indicator of a strong workforce. It is important to remember income growth is always estimated, and in the United States, companies are conservative with yearly predictions. One of the reasons companies do not want to overpredict potential growth is it is easier to address an influx of profits versus having to make up for missing projections. The United States is expected to see an increase, but the country is lagging behind the projected income growth of other countries.
Economists believe this is directly related to the limited number of high-paying jobs available in the United States. The United States is expecting between one to three percent increase, which is in line with European and Canadian markets. However, Asian and Latin American markets are expected to see increases between five and six percent.
Economists believe the slower income growth suggests American employees are growing complacent in their careers. With limited high-paying jobs available, there is less room for corporate advancement. As a result, American workers are not as motivated to work for promotions, since they know promotions are largely reliant on someone in an upper-management position retiring. The complacency theory is supported by the low unemployment levels in the United States. This shows employees are able to find work, but because of the flooded market, there is little room to advance.
Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Another metric economics study is how many employees live paycheck to paycheck. Normally, this metric is difficult to measure, as employees have different financial needs. Factors like whether the employee is married or comes from a wealthy family also influence whether an employee has strong savings. As of writing, because of the government shutdown in the United States, economists are getting a better feel for who is living paycheck to paycheck.
Many government workers are reporting without their usual wages, they are struggling to make payments on their rent, mortgage or utilities. Several surveys show this struggle is not limited to government employees:
- 64 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck.
- 32.9 percent of Americans have less than $100 in their savings account.
- 49 percent of Americans would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense.
Debt is also a growing issue for American workers. This is linked to the minimal income increase in the United States. Much of the debt comes from student loans. Students spend thousands of dollars to attend college, only to graduate and end up in low-paying jobs.
Judging worker productivity is entirely subjective, relying on country-wide polls to get a general estimate for how productive workers feel. In a 2023, American workers said:
- 72 percent believe their work is important part of their lives.
- 94 percent consider work-life balance important.
- 60 percent agreed working from home increases productivity.
The United States was also at the top of the list for job satisfaction. Overall, the United States ranked closely with Belgium and Denmark in terms of productivity. Belgium reported a slightly higher wage per hour but lower average hours worked per week.
One surprising statistic was how often employees checked social media at work. With how important social media is for Americans, it was expected the United States would rank the highest. However, the United States only used social media for an average of 14 minutes at work, compared to a total of 145 minutes throughout the day.
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