The World’s Most Productive Countries in 2022

Learn which countries are the most productive, what makes them so successful, and what business productivity tactics you can use to emulate their success.

By Leighton Jacobs

Last updated May 15, 2023

Productivity can be elusive. Although you might start your working day with a plan, you soon find yourself getting distracted, losing focus, or simply procrastinating. Fortunately, nobody will be looking at how much time you spent scrolling social media when working out productivity for your country.

And although productivity has been rising steadily across the globe for years—thanks largely to technology—it varies wildly from place to place. So, let’s find out which countries are the most productive and discover some interesting things about productivity on the way. Spoiler: productivity hacks don’t work as well for entire countries.

What makes some countries more productive?

Understanding what makes some countries more productive than others is no small task. Intuitively, you think that a lot depends on workers. Consider, however, that the same worker in one country can be many times more productive if they simply hop over the border to a neighbour. Productivity is therefore also affected by the tools available to workers. Those with more sophisticated tools tend to boast higher levels of productivity. And while many countries may be transitioning to more manufacturing or service-based economies, it takes time to gain the experience and expertise needed to reap all the productivity benefits on offer.

As the rankings below reflect, the most productive countries are typically those that have a well-educated workforce, good infrastructure, and a favourable business environment. But there are ultimately hundreds of factors that influence business productivity, including workforce, education, training, transport, resources, communication, infrastructure, government regulation, taxation, corruption, trade policy, and more.

Rankings

In economics, productivity is commonly defined as the efficiency of production, i.e. the ratio between output and input. And that sounds simple enough in theory. But in practice, it can be hard to pin down. For instance, it’s much easier to measure the output from manufacturing than from services.

Fortunately, when looking at countries, we can compare GDP per capita with hours worked. This gives us an idea of how much the average person in each country is producing for every hour they work—or in other words how productive they are.

Using the latest available data from the OECD and World Bank, we’ve calculated a per-person productivity figure for each country. Drum roll, please.

Rank Country GDP per capita (USD) Hours worked Productivity per person, per hour (USD)
1

Luxembourg

$134,754

1382

$97.51

2

Ireland

$106,456

1775

$59.98

3

Norway

$79,201

1427

$55.50

4

Switzerland

$77,324

1533

$50.43

5

Denmark

$64,651

1363

$47.42

6

Netherlands

$63,767

1417

$45.02

7

Germany

$57,928

1349

$42.93

8

Sweden

$59,324

1444

$41.07

9

Austria

$58,427

1442

$40.51

10

Iceland

$57,646

1433

$40.22

11

Belgium

$58,931

1493

$39.47

12

United States

$69,288

1791

$38.69

13

Finland

$55,007

1518

$36.23

14

France

$50,729

1490

$34.04

15

United Kingdom

$49,675

1497

$33.17

16

Australia

$55,807

1694

$32.94

17

Canada

$52,085

1685

$30.91

18

Italy

$45,936

1669

$27.53

19

Slovenia

$43,625

1596

$27.33

20

New Zealand

$46,420

1730

$26.83

21

Japan

$42,940

1607

$26.72

22

Lithuania

$42,665

1620

$26.34

23

Malta

$47,714

1882

$25.35

24

Czech Republic

$44,261

1753

$25.25

25

Israel

$43,722

1753

$24.94

26

Spain

$40,775

1641

$24.85

27

South Korea

$46,918

1915

$24.50

28

Cyprus

$42,556

1745

$24.38

29

Estonia

$42,192

1767

$23.88

30

Portugal

$35,888

1649

$21.76

31

Hungary

$36,753

1697

$21.66

32

Latvia

$34,469

1601

$21.53

33

Slovakia

$33,010

1583

$20.85

34

Poland

$37,503

1830

$20.49

35

Romania

$35,414

1838

$19.26

36

Croatia

$33,801

1835

$18.42

37

Greece

$31,295

1872

$16.72

38

Bulgaria

$26,705

1619

$16.49

39

Chile

$29,104

1916

$15.19

40

Costa Rica

$23,387

2073

$11.28

41

Mexico

$20,036

2128

$9.42

Disclaimer: many countries are not included due to a lack of data for hours worked.

Analysis

Luxembourg takes the top spot in convincing fashion, an impressive 38 per cent clear of second place. As reported by the Luxembourg Times, this is mostly due to the country’s financial sector—but cross-border workers also play a major role. Second place tells a similar story. BusinessExpert states that multinationals are the secret to Ireland’s productivity, with more than a thousand companies attracted to the Emerald Isle by attractive corporate tax rates.

Given their relative size, the top two might come as a surprise. But size has almost no bearing on productivity. The United States, for example, doesn’t make the top ten despite being far larger—and even working more hours—than any of the countries above it. And this highlights a key takeaway: working more doesn’t necessarily translate to higher productivity. We can see this clearly by comparing the top and bottom of the list. Luxembourg tops our ranking, working 1382 hours annually while Mexico comes bottom despite working a massive 2128 hours.

The name of the game is therefore working smarter, not harder. Regular breaks and shorter working days both appear to boost business productivity. For example, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all make the top ten with shorter than 40-hour work weeks according to BusinessCulture.org. Not only do workers come back to work feeling fresh every morning, but also happier as they have more time to spend with family and friends. And as we all know, happy employees are productive employees.

On the flip side, workers in places like Mexico, Chile, and Costa Rica work long hours and generally post lower scores for happiness and life satisfaction. These longer hours are in part down to different labour laws but even in the United States, around 11 per cent of Americans work more than 50 hours a week according to the OECD. Overworked and tired employees are no recipe for productivity, just employee burnout.

How can you improve productivity?

Reuters reports that UK productivity has suffered due to weak investment, a lack of innovation, and poor management. This not only explains its ranking in our table but also matches up perfectly with an article published by the European Central Bank, which found that improving managerial ability, investing in training for employees, and increasing investment in both innovation and existing technology all have a significant impact on business productivity and the productivity of countries as a whole.

This paints a very clear picture of how to improve productivity. And it couldn’t be simpler…

Train and educate
Give employees the knowledge and expertise they need and watch your productivity grow.

Manage resources effectively
Make the most of your resources and don’t waste any time or money on unnecessary tasks.

Invest in the right tools
Get the right tools and software to ensure employees can access information and communicate with each other quickly and easily—not to mention streamline workflows and improve efficiency.

Get Zendesk. Our intuitive solutions help you be more productive. It’s as simple as that. We have a huge range of tools to make almost anything you do easier, faster, and just better—from helping agents focus on the right tickets, to better understanding your customers, optimising workflows, encouraging collaboration, and monitoring progress. Whatever you need to boost business productivity, we’ve got you covered.

Check out how Zendesk Guide can enhance agent productivity.

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