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The Stats Guys: Who works how long? These jobs offer the best work-life balance

Want to spend more time relaxing and not working?This is what the stats say.

Want to spend more time relaxing and not working?This is what the stats say. Photo: Getty/TND

The summer break is fast approaching. Many of us will scale back work hours to the magical number of zero for a few weeks.

Before we get to enjoy our holidays, let’s look at who is working how much. Maybe you might even reconsider your career choice.

For this column we will be looking only at the hours of those working full-time and ignore part-time workers. The part-time-ification of our workforce deserves a separate column.

What do the rich and the poor have in common?

They work long hours. It is the middle-income workers that enjoy the most modest working hours.

The claim that folks simply need to work harder to progress in life truly is a slap in the face to full-time employed workers putting in 50 hours per week for little pay.

Considering the skills shortage, low-income workers (if organised) stand a good chance of improving their work conditions and re-establishing the social contract that promises a decent lifestyle in exchange for hard work.

Government jobs have their pros and cons. A big fat pro is working hours. If you really want to prioritise your work-life balance, get a job in local government.

Throughout the whole life-cycle, employees in local government work fewer hours than people in state or federal government (and much fewer than folks in the private sector).

Why are young folks in federal government working such crazy hours?

Essentially the only federal government employees in their teens are members of the Australian Defence Force – no slacking off there!

In the private sector you work longer hours the more senior you get, and work-life balance worsens year after year.

Private businesses wanting to attract staff during the skills squeeze will want to find a mechanism to guarantee (not just promise!) fair working hours.

Millennials that are thinking about entering the family formation stage of their life cycle might want to grab a government job. Generous parental leave packages and shorter work days are attractive drawcards for young parents in the workforce.

For good work-life balance, become an employee (43 hours per week), not a boss.

Better, join the public sector (ideally local government).

For long working hours (51 hours per weed), join the family business as a contributing family member.

Nobody works you harder than your own family.

Business owners work on average 49 hours per week

Becoming an entrepreneur or enjoying work-life balance – the data suggests you must pick one.

At the very least, achieving work-life balance is an uphill battle for business owners.

Your highest level of education is also a good general indicator of how many hours you will work.

Up to the age of 50, nobody outworks the Certificate III & IV crowd (dominated by tradies with TAFE level qualifications). Their pay is closely linked to hours worked.

Physical labour in your 50s just isn’t possible at the same rate as it was in your 30s.

Highly educated folks with postgraduate degrees only get going in their 50s.

Laptop based jobs are much softer on the body than trade jobs and long hours can more easily be tolerated.

Best and worst jobs

The list below shows the average working hours for almost 1000 jobs in Australia (use top, left-hand search field to find your job).

The craziest hours are worked by people who tend to work in bursts.

Our 15 full-time trekking guides in Australia can’t possibly work all year long at a rate of 86 hours per week.

The mining workers at the top of the list probably are FIFO workers (two weeks on and then two weeks off or similar arrangements), so over the year their working hours aren’t crazy.

They just work crazy hours when they are on site. I suspect that a 63-hour work week for a dairy farmer is pretty normal though.

The most easy-going working hours are had by people working in libraries (librarians, archivists, and their assistants).

These workers have plenty of spare time at their disposal. I suspect many more librarians than dairy farmers will have crazy hobbies and side projects.

Now that the summer break is approaching you might want to ask your local librarians not just about a few good summer reads, but also about a job in the library.

Demographer Simon Kuestenmacher is a co-founder of The Demographics Group. His columns, media commentary and public speaking focus on current socio-demographic trends and how these impact Australia. Follow Simon on Twitter or LinkedIn for daily data insights.

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