Tokyo, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur Are in the Top Five Most Overworked Cities

Data from a new study reveals that residents from these cities consistently work the longest hours but are offered the fewest vacation leaves.
Top Overworked Cities
Photo by Andre Benz via Unsplash

Asia’s reputation for its intense work culture now has data to back it up. In a new study ranking work-life balance in 40 international cities, four Asian cities are ranked in the bottom ten: Singapore (32), Hong Kong (35), Tokyo (39), and Kuala Lumpur (40).

The top-ranked cities are all in Europe: Helsinki, Munich, Oslo, Hamburg and Stockholm.

The study by securities company Kisi examined cities known for their lifestyle and professional opportunities. The company looked at three broad categories to determine work-life balance: work intensity, society and institutions, and city livability. There were numerous factors underneath each category.


Image courtesy of Kisi

For work intensity specifically, it looked at factors such as arrival time, hours worked per week, vacations offered, and commute time. Tokyo, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur were in the top five cities with the most overworked urban professionals in the world.

Tokyo coming in last in this specific category does not come as a surprise, considering the widespread reports of the Japanese capital’s grueling work culture. With some of the longest working hours worldwide and enormous pressure on young professionals, many have been known to work themselves to death. In Asia, Tokyo residents came to work the earliest, at 8:57 a.m.


Image courtesy of Kisi

Singapore, meanwhile, is known for its residents' high life expectancy, quality of life, and gender equality. The Economist even named it as one of the best places to be born in 2013. But according to Kisi, it comes second only to Tokyo at the bottom of the list. The average Singapore resident works 44.6 hours a week. Only Kuala Lumpur did worse in this regard, at 46 hours. Hong Kong barely trails the two at 44 hours.

Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong were the three cities that had the most number of residents working more than 48 hours a week. These professionals were also offered the least number of vacation days.

Bernhard Mehl, Kisi’s CEO, said, “It is important for us to note that our professional and personal lives are not, and should not be, mutually exclusive.”

Mehl said that this era has seen organizations and workers alike failing “to address the most everyday aspect of enhancing our everyday lives—finding the balance between work and leisure.”

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