Labor Day: The Working Day in Latin American Countries

Within the framework of International Workers' Day, it is necessary to analyze the labor situation in Latin American countries compared to the rest of the world

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LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Día del Trabajo: La jornada laboral en países de Latinoamérica

May 1 is International Workers' Day. On this date, it is pertinent to know how the labor aspect is in the region. One of the most commonly used indicators is the working day because it makes it possible to compare working conditions between different countries, taking into account their duration, workload, and productivity. For this reason, we have reviewed the working day in various Latin American countries, how it compares with first world countries, and what the International Labor Organization says about the ideal conditions.

International Workers' Day in Latin America

Latin America is a region with various challenges in labor matters, although its position is not that of China, India, or various African countries (regions with precarious labor rights), the reality is that it is also far from the large economies of the world. Countries in this region tend to be among the longest working in the world. As an example, we can take the length of working hours among the largest economies in the region. Colombia is the country with the most hours worked annually per person, with 2,172 (47.6 average per week) in 2020 according to OECD data, followed by Mexico with 2,124 (44.7 weekly), Costa Rica with 1,913 (43.9 weekly), and Chile with 1825 (42.9 weekly). Of course, the hours worked do not always correspond to the hours that correspond by law in these countries.

In Colombia, by law, there must be a maximum of 48 hours of work per week, although the goal is to reduce it to 42 by 2026 according to Law 2101 of 2021. In Mexico, the figure is the same as a maximum of 48 hours, although there is currently a proposal in the Chamber of Deputies to reduce it to 36. For its part, in Costa Rica, it is also a maximum of 48 hours, while in Chile it is 45. In Venezuela, the working day is limited to 40 hours, in Argentina and Peru to 48 hours, and in Brazil to 44, according to the labor laws of each of these countries. These numbers are in terms of the ordinary day since the legislation contemplates half days, night shifts, daytime, mixed, extended, etc. that change the number of hours worked per week.

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Is a Longer Working Day Synonymous With Productivity?

At the labor level, the so-called first world has conditions that equal or exceed those determined by the International Labor Organization, which in its agreement C030, adopted in 1933, establishes that the ordinary working day shall not exceed eight hours per day and 48 hours per week. If we review the conferences in Latin America, most are within that limit established more than 90 years ago. On the other hand, mainly in the European Union, the working day has been reduced notably, although the legislation still has a 48-hour limit, in reality much less is worked, on average at the community level, 37.1 hours per week were worked. Although there are cases such as Germany where the average is 34.2 hours per week and 1,332 hours per year (the lowest in the OECD), far from the 2,172 in Colombia.

In the United States, the figure is 34.6 hours per week, according to data from the Statista portal, a level very close to that of Germany and well below the working hours of Latin America.

Something that must be clear is that by itself the duration of the working day does not represent a better or worse working condition, since it must be understood together with other indicators such as salary, productivity, purchasing power, Gross Domestic Product, etc. . Therefore, a longer working day does not mean that there is greater productivity, on the contrary, longer working hours are related to low productivity and other problems for the worker. Among them is the issue of health, the World Health Organization warned, in 2021, that from 2000 to 2016 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease-related to excessively long working hours, especially those that exceed 55 hours, doubled. a week. Illegally, many Latin Americans work more hours than those established by law, thanks to little or no labor protections, which poses a risk to their health and a deterioration in their quality of life.

The Challenges of the Latin American Labor Field

Corruption, legislation with little protection for workers, and anachronistic work cultures are still part of the daily life of Latin American economies. This generates unfair working conditions that directly impact the standard of living of workers. Among the challenges facing the labor field in the region are: achieving better wages, benefits, longer paid vacations, overtime pay, fair working hours, the right to disconnect, ending the wage gap between men and women, and gender equality, among others. The delicate stability of the Latin American economies is commonly used as one of the reasons why it is not possible to increase wages and, in general, improve working conditions.