Mexico fact of the day

by on May 3, 2011 at 8:01 am in Data Source | Permalink

When the news was announced that Mexicans work longer days than anyone else in the world, many people here were too busy to notice.

“Really?” Marcelo Barrales said, “the longest?”

Mexicans work an average of ten hours a day, paid and unpaid labor, even though the country is far from the world’s poorest.  Belgians work the least number of hours a day, at seven.  It can be argued that these long hours stem in part from the inefficiency of labor in Mexico, but still this should put to rest the cliched notion that in Mexico the work ethic is weak.

1 libert May 3, 2011 at 8:36 am

1) It “should” but it won’t.

2) Couldn’t you also argue that inefficiency of labor (aka low productivitiy) is a reason for people to work less? The substitution effect and all that. My point isn’t that the explanation is wrong per se, but rather that it could be used to explain both observations: lots of hours worked and few hours worked.

2 Rahul May 3, 2011 at 10:46 am

What is the inefficiency is pervasive beyond labor?

3 sorry May 3, 2011 at 8:45 am

when people talk about work ethic they typically use the east asian example as their main case. it’s pretty hard to make the case that mexican labour is better able to handle the kind of industries and conditions that south korea, taiwan and now china went through in their development. we’re talling about diligent workforces that will work 12+ hours in factories for a pittance. there’s a vast difference.

4 eric May 3, 2011 at 8:59 am

“should put to rest the cliched notion that in Mexico the work ethic is weak”

Might the datapoint be wrong? Methinks you are making a Hansonian error, in this case, any single datapoint consistent with one’s priors is definitive and sufficient.

5 boxwallah May 3, 2011 at 9:22 am

Is measuring the number of hours at work really the correct metric to compare countries’ production/work ethic? Thanks to telecomm, “hours spent at work” has become more of a fungible concept.

After working for a certain time in Mexico city, I’ve come to realize that physical presence at one’s place of work doesn’t equate that actual work is being done.

The challenge is to incentivize employees, and that’s more of a trickle down issue. But that’s another story.

6 Rahul May 3, 2011 at 10:48 am

Another thing that time in India taught me is that the time recorded on the time cards and the time actually present can be two very different quantities.

7 Chris D May 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Every office worker I spoke to in Chile, American or Chilean, echoed one Chilean’s frustrated opinion that “We work incredibly long hours, but we’re really just not productive.” Chile doesn’t have a siesta, but nonetheless it seems that hours are wasted in having coffee at other people’s desks and napping to make up for the absurd Chilean sleep schedule.

8 dave May 3, 2011 at 9:37 am

“After working for a certain time in Mexico city, I’ve come to realize that physical presence at one’s place of work doesn’t equate that actual work is being done.”

Considering I’m getting paid to make this post, amen.

9 Badger May 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

The most gruesome and longest workloads that I’ve seen in my life were not in Asia neither in Africa, they take place in extremely impoverished Northeastern Brazil. A southern Brazilian friend had two says about this: “I study hard because I’m lazy” and “grandma always told me that when the brain doesn’t work it’s the body that suffers.” My friend appears to be the only one that I know that has got it right.

10 athEIst May 3, 2011 at 10:11 am

I was going to say that the siesta is included in time worked but I think Dave above has it nailed.

11 Josh Doherty May 3, 2011 at 10:18 am

Does the 10 hours include the traditional siesta period of the day? I believe that this can be 1 to 2 hours and begins around 2 or 3 PM.

12 Bob Knaus May 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

My guess is that few commentors here have worked alongside Mexicans in the field or on the construction site as I have. My personal experience aligns well with the idea that Mexicans are a hard-working bunch.

If you, as a tourist in Mexico, see a construction site with no workers over the heat of mid-day, consider that you were not out of bed nearly early enough to observe at what time the workers started.

13 anon May 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

Most poor are a hard working bunch. Are the Mexicans harder working than equivalently poor folks?

14 Matt in NYC May 3, 2011 at 10:21 am

Anecdotally, in New York City, you generally see the Mexican workers in the Korean delis and Mexican delivery men from the Chinese restaurants working day and night, six days a week. Living in NY, you have to be impressed by the Mexican (Mexican immigrant, that is) work ethic and have never understood why the cliche remains alive.

15 Ted Craig May 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Are they Mexican?

16 Alvin May 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm

That’s true of all immigrants who come here to work.

17 tom3 May 3, 2011 at 10:32 am

Tyler, this is entirely consistent with the (probably false) idea that Mexicans have no work ethic and just laze around and do things very slowly.

The study says Mexicans do 3 hours every day of ‘unpaid’ ‘work’, versus about 1 hour and 20 minutes for South Koreans! And as far as I can tell from the OECD public summary, it says nothing at all about how hard anyone works.

You may know from your personal experience that many Mexicans have a good work ethic. The study results add nothing to that, as far as I can tell from the OECD public summary.

Also, I think the best point of comparison would be Brazil. But it looks like the OECD has only incomplete information on Brazil.

Finally, the OECD does not make the report available to the public. It’s only available to ‘journalists’ who call and log-in to a password-protected media relations website. Does any blogger want to support the OECD’s goal of managing access to its reports? Does any journalist want to make it public, or have they agreed to restrictions? The Post deals with it by linking to the OECD site that gives you the media contact phone number and a PR summary.

Doubly-finally, the Post article invents a new word-manana. I hope it rhymes with banana.

18 Gnarledhands May 3, 2011 at 10:48 am

Anyone who claims Mexicans (whether immigrants or second generation) have no work ethic has never been an employer of blue collar workers. You get more than you pay for and if you are good to them, they are good to you.

19 Jim May 3, 2011 at 11:05 am

“Mexicans work an average of ten hours a day, paid and unpaid labor, even though the country is far from the world’s poorest.”

Paging Fox Butterfield….

20 Rahul May 3, 2011 at 11:26 am

What’s the meaning of “unpaid labor”? If I spent an hour mowing my lawn does it count?

21 TD May 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Yes. So, does cooking at home, washing clothes, etc. I believe in the original report, even shopping is considered work.

22 doctorpat May 5, 2011 at 12:07 am

I believe in the original report, even shopping is considered work.

Please don’t tell my wife that!

23 axa May 3, 2011 at 11:43 am

an opinion as a mexican: many people has a strong work ethic, the problem is the lack of creativity and entrepeneurship you find in the post-socialist countries. lots of people behave like bureaucrats, arrive at job early, do lots of stuff during the day, leave late, but they never question themselves about the added value of their work at the end of the day.

ps. i’m posting during my working hours.

24 Xmas May 5, 2011 at 2:13 am

I agree to something like that. It was hard to the the Mexicans (IT/Business Office folks) I worked with to work with you on things tangential to their job. You send them an email and it would take them a day or more to answer. The concept of “Do something quick for me” isn’t there. If you need to talk with someone for 5 minutes to get an answer for a question, it’s like pulling teeth to make that happen. But if you go up the chain of command, and they get instructions from a manager to talk to you, then they get in touch with you.

25 Eric May 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I’m wondering if Steve Sailer is going to show his face on this comments page…

I imagine the only thing worse than doing 10 hrs/day work for your entire life for terrible wages would be to work 10 hrs/day for your entire life and then have Steve Sailer say you’re lazy and stupid, and don’t deserve to live in America. And if you try and protest against his ideas, witness him tar you with smears about “political correctness”.

26 Rahul May 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hear hear.

27 Bob Montgomery May 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm

>>tar you with smears

Pot, kettle.

28 Tom May 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm

You may be correct, but it would be interesting if anyone would counter him with actual facts.

29 Matt May 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm

If I have a repair job in a shipyard there’s no ethnic group I’d rather see than Mexicans. They’ll work harder, longer, and in more extreme weather conditions than any other group I’ve had experience with.

30 Andrew May 4, 2011 at 5:45 am

But is this just because their country sucks?

31 Andrew May 4, 2011 at 5:49 am

For example, I blow the doors off the average Mexican and work in terrible conditions relative to the type of work I’m doing. The first thing I do is improve the conditions. Tolerating bad work conditions may not be that great on net.

32 axa May 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm

if anybody can read spanish this a really good article about the issue:

“Mexicans are not lazy, we are useless, not productive.”

http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/columnas/89411.html

33 Henry May 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Well, there is a big variation on works ethic, both regional and by industry. Residents of Mexico City can speak for themselves.

34 axa May 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

and finally I found the original source, a report from the CIDAC (www.cidac.org) Center for Development Research. There´s a graph shows that the producivity of each mexican state compared to countries around the world. Campeche is like Luxemburg, while Guerrero is like Namibia.

http://blogs.esmas.com/cidac/index.php/2011/04/15/si-mexico-fuera-el-mundoque-pais-seria-tu-estado-en-productividad/

35 tom3 May 3, 2011 at 1:56 pm

The study is not public, according to the OECD site. The PR release and the Post article do not show that Mexicans work ‘hard’ at their jobs or that they have a strong work ethic. People may believe that Mexicans do work hard because of their own observations of Mexican workers, either in Mexico or in the US, but that’s not from the report, and it’s not data.

I invite anybody to show that I’m wrong–that the article or the underlying report really do give evidence of a work ethic and ‘hard’ work.

Or, let’s start calling people racists. That’s cool too!

36 dirk May 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

The Mexican oil industry is not productive because of stupid laws which discourage risk taking among individuals. Their corporate culture amounts to: “First, don’t fuck up.” Because fucking up working for the government in Mexico can mean not just losing your job but going to jail. In practice, this means workers spend most of their time doing pointless paperwork to cover their asses instead of productive work on a project. In such a system, the bureaucratic-minded rise to the top. Those impatient to get things done join a drug gang. I suspect the best and brightest go work for the cocaine cartels. It’s their Wall Street.

37 Rahul May 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

This sounds so much like India. Except the drug gangs and cartels.

38 Sy May 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm

That is why what we are doing is so forward looking.
With an essentially non-white America we will have all the +++++ and none of the —-
Never again will we have to worry about a Nazi-Aryan party coming to power.
And we still live the good life, what’s not to like?

39 Miguel Madeira May 4, 2011 at 7:53 am

I suspect that, when we say that in country X there is low “work ethics”, we are talking more about things like regularity, sense of organization, ponctuality (sp?), etc. than exactly “working much/less hours”.

I am from Portugal and we work more hours than most european contries; however we are not much regular, ponctual, etc.

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