Friday, April 15, 2011

OECD: Mexicans the Least-Productive People In the Whole Entire World

As one might expect from a country that's routinely derided as fat, feckless and lazy, there's been a fair amount of crowing over this report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showing that Mexicans are, the hardest-working people on planet Earth.

Mexicans work longer days than anyone else in OECD countries, devoting 10 hours to paid and unpaid work, such as cleaning or cooking at home. Belgians work the least, at 7 hours, compared with an OECD average of 8 hours a day.

Belgians? Ha! Suck on this, Jean-Claude Van Damme!

But, amigos, we hate to interrupt you while you're running - or, more likely, sauntering verrrry slooooowly, five abreast - through your victory lap, but... seriously? You know we've never bought into the stereotype of Mexicans as lazy, not at all, but there's a difference between putting in time on the job and actually doing stuff. And so after four years of standing in line at the bank to get a form filled out so we can stand in another line to get it stamped so we can get back in the first line to pay the bill; of making four trips over a three week period to a government office to get a document that takes ten minutes to prepare; of seeing the cleaning lady spend an hour and a half rearranging our spice rack by color; or watching workmen tear up the road using sledgehammers, and women clean the entire city with brooms made of twigs, we can certainly confirm that, yeah, no one puts in more time on the job than Mexicans do. But just let's not confuse that with productivity or working hard (with notable exceptions, of course - though it might be cathartic for a few minutes, we wouldn't trade our jobs for one that involved a sledgehammer).

According to the report:

Most unpaid work is housework. Mexicans do the most, at more than 3 hours per day, and Koreans the least, at 1 hour and 19 minutes. Much of this time is spent cooking. Americans spend the least time cooking each day (30 minutes) and Turks the most in the OECD (74 minutes). Most people spend around 50 minutes a day cooking.

This is one of the great things about living in a very Catholic and patriarchal country, where women are treated like incubators and servants, just like God intended! But if you look at the chart above, while it's clear that unpaid work is what puts Mexico on top, when it comes to paid work, they're still a close third or fourth behind Japan, Korea and maybe (we really can't tell) China. Now, much of Mexico is truly magnificent, and we actually love it because of, rather than in spite of, many of its flaws - but can anyone look at this country and really say, "this is what happens when you get 100 million of the world's third- or fourth-hardest working people together in one place"? Every morning we walk to the bakery up the street to buy 25 cents worth of bread rolls - a transaction that for some reason involves the efforts of at least three full-time, paid bakery employees - not counting the people who actually bake the bread.

And of course if we dig down into the OECD data [pdf], we learn that

Mexicans report the third highest positive psychological experiences (feeling rested, smiling, learning, and enjoyment) and lower than average negative experiences (pain, worry, stress, sadness, depression).

Because working hard for long hours always makes us feel enjoyably, smilingly rested. Just ask the interns here.


victor said...

Twelve guys working on our house in Oaxaca.Major renovation including a pool. Not a power tool in sight. But would I trade it for a NYC work force.
Not a chance. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Your maid arranges your spices in order of color? Are you lucky or what?

Burro Hall said...

Sometimes. Sometimes she arranges them by type of scent or the granularity of the spices themselves. She doesn't let the fact that there's not much for her to do keep her from doing it for four hours. said...

Before I moved to Mexico, I believed all Mexicans took siestas every afternoon and, therefore, I would fit right in. What I discovered is people who work so hard for so little so inefficiently. You said it much better.