Comparing Working Time Around the World

Comparing diverse employment practices such as working-time are descriptive, at best, if they simply catalog a list of countries and their practices. The goal of comparative employment relations is to uncover the deeper causes and meanings of both similar and different cases.  A July 2014 special issue of Cornell’s International Labor Review tackles working time around the world and adds to the understanding of work-time practices.  Authors Berg et al. create a conceptual framework to help make cross-national comparisons of working time more meaningful.  Their conceptual framework is based on an examination of labor market institutions and mechanisms that establish and maintain working time practices.  From their perspective working-time standards are based on the efforts of employers and workers to align working-time with their interests.  They identify three ideal type configurations for how working-time practices are established.  The ideal type/configurations they develop are:

  • Unilateral: employers decide
  • Negotiated: employers and employees jointly decide through negotiation and
  • Mandated: government decides through regulation

The authors do not expect that countries will completely fit into only one of the categories, but only that it will indicate a country’s orientation in setting work-time standards.  To illustrate their theoretical tool, the authors apply it to a comparison of the U.S. (unilateral model), Sweden (negotiated model) and France (mandated model). 

Berg, P., Bosch, G., & Charest, J (2014) Working Time Configurations: A Framework for Analyzing Diversity Across Countries. Industrial & Labor Relations Review 67(3) pp. 805-837.  Available at: