International Safety: Unpaid Overtime and Mental Stress Rule Around the Globe

Oct. 7, 2008
On average, four out of 10 employees work more hours than agreed in their contracts, and half of those working overtime are not compensated for the extra hours put in.

An international study based on data compares “decent work standards” as perceived by 342,000 employees in 11 countries ranging from Europe, to Latin America and Africa. The findings are part of the World Day for Decent Work, which is Oct. 7.

Next to the lack of compensation for overtime, employees from
around the world report their work to be physically and mentally exhausting. These work-related stress patterns are measured on a scale from 1 (no stress) to 5 (daily stress). Exhausting physical stress is reported as an average 2.5 on this scale. Exhausting mental stress is experienced in all countries to be an average 3.5, and manifests itself more frequently, regardless of the state of development of
the economy.

Another lacking Decent Work standard relates to job security. Employees without a permanent contract suffer more from feelings that they may lose their job anytime than their permanently employed colleagues. The occurrence of workers without a permanent contract varies greatly between countries: In Argentina and the UK, only 10 percent of employees are temporary workers, while in Brazil and the Netherlands, almost 20 percent are working without a contract.

The type of contract is not the only reason leading to job insecurity. In all the countries surveyed, the majority of employees said they do not have job security due to economic or other factors. Again, as in the case of stress, this pattern occurs in all 11 countries surveyed, regardless of their state of development.

The good news emerging from this study of Decent Work standards seems to be that collective bargaining coverage helps to raise pay
levels. Employees in industries with collective bargains report on average higher wages than their colleagues who are not covered.

“Decent work and WageIndicator” is based on results from 342,000 employees sruveyed between 2006 and July 2008. The full report is available at under 2008 publications.

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