Singapore employees are often cited as working some of the longest hours in the world. Looking at our GDP per capita, which is one of the highest in the world, it may not be the most surprising thing.
Working hours are also regulated under Singapore’s Employment Act – protecting certain groups of employees here. In fact, according to the Employment Act, the definition of “hours of work” is the time during which an employee is at the employer’s disposal and is not free to dispose of his or her own time and movements exclusive of any intervals allowed for rest and meals.
Keeping track of the working hours in Singapore is also important as it is an input to measure economic indicators in Singapore, such as productivity.
What Is The Average Working Hours In Singapore?
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) publishes the paid hours worked and actual hours worked per week each year. In 2022, the average paid hours worked per week was 44.1 hours, while the actual working hours was 44.3 hours.
Paid hours refer to number of standard working hours AND paid overtime work hours. Actual hours worked refers to the actual time spent by employees on work activities, regardless of whether the hours are regular in nature or whether they are paid for.
Over the past decade, there seems to be a downward trend of number of paid hours Singapore employees are working. Since data for actual hours worked is only available from 2017, and distorted due to the recent pandemic, it is hard to gauge if Singapore employees are actually working less hours.
Interestingly, there is a small discrepancy between paid hours per week (blue line) and actual hours worked per week (orange line). Singapore employees used to be paid for slightly more hours than what they actually worked. In the past two years though, Actual Hours Worked is more than Paid Hours Worked.
In the latest quarterly statistics, as of March 2023, the downward trend for paid hours worked continued as Singapore employees averaged 43.7 paid hours per week.
Which Industry Works The Most Hours In Singapore?
MOM also publishes the average actual working hours on an industry level.
|Transportation & Storage||42.9||43.7||43.4|
|Food & Beverage Services||40.4||41.1||41.7|
|Information & Communications||41.1||40.9||40.8|
|Financial & Insurance Services||42.2||42.0||41.6|
|Real Estate Services||40.9||42.4||41.7|
|Administrative & Support Services||41.5||41.5||41.5|
|Other Services Industries||51.5||51.5||51.6|
|Others (includes Agriculture,|
Fishing, Quarrying, Utilities and Sewerage & Waste Management
According to the statistics, employees in the Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, Information & Communications, and Professional Services industries worked the least number of hours – under 41 hours per week.
Meanwhile, employees working in Other Services Industries worked the most by far – at 51.6 hours per week.
For those wondering what this classification is based on, given that there are “Others” and obviously some missing one, we can refer to the SSIC Code.
How Many Hours Can Employees Work (According To The Employment Act)?
Under Part 4 of the Employment Act, employees cannot be required to work for “more than 6 consecutive hours without a period of leisure” and for “more than 8 hours in one day or more than 44 hours in one week”.
There are certain provisions to provide greater flexibility as well. For example, employees can work up to 9 hours in one day if they work less on another day, but only up to the limit of 44 hours in one week. Employees can also work up to 48 hours per week, provided that they do not work more than 9 hours in one day and more than 88 hours in a two week period.
As “Hours of work” falls under Part 4 of the Employment Act, we should also note that it only applies to certain groups of employees, such as:
#1 to workmen who are paid a salary not exceeding $4,500 a month (excluding other types of payments and bonuses)
#2 every employee (other than workmen or a person employed in a managerial or executive position) who receives a salary not exceeding $2,600 a month (excluding other types of payments and bonuses)
Part-Time Workers Are Defined By Their Hours Of Work Per Week
The Employment Act also defines part-time employees as “an employee who is required under his or her contract of service with an employer to work for less than 35 hours per week”.
By this definition, it also means that full-time employment refers to employees with normal working hours that is at least 35 hours per week.
How Accurate Is The Statistics On Hours Worked Per Week?
According to MOM, the statistics on hours worked is compiled from its biennial Conditions of Employment Survey. This means it is self-reported by employers.
Nevertheless, the number of hours worked by Singapore employees is already on the high side, when compared other countries. You can simply Google “which countries work the longest hours” and see that Singapore ranks very highly. Even if Singapore is missing from a report, our 44.4 hours average work week (or 2308.8 hours average working hours annually) will rank quite high on the list.
This article was first published on 11 September 2022 and has been updated with the latest information.
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