This is a non-economist's question.

As a philosophy teacher ( in a french high school) , I have to study the theme of " labour" in class. I'm looking for factual data in order to assess the contemporary validity of some philosophical theories regarding the employee/ enterprise relation.

I suppose there is no single answer to the question : how much average value does 1 working hour produce?

Are there reliable statistics dealing with this subject?

Either statistics by country, or by enterprise, or by social category/profession?

Has also the profit generated by 1 working hour been studied?

Has the historical evolution of this profit through time been investigated?

  • $\begingroup$ The problem with this question is that its answer is bound to be tautological. Since value is the amount of labour put into a commodity, one hour of labour produces... one hour of labour of value. We can of course try to assess this by measuring it in units of currency - but it is bound to be a gross approximation, and subject to the fact that currencies are anything but stable. In any case, you can do it by country by dividing the national product by the number of hours people in the workforce work per year. + $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2020 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ You can probably get this by sector - agriculture, industry, manufacturing, services - for most countries, but more details will probably need some more in depth research. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2020 at 15:43

3 Answers 3


That is a great question. And it depends (famous economics response to anything).
Here are some of the factors on, “how much does 1 hour of work produces”: - Persons education and training level - How many people are working on a specific task - How much capital is available to help the person perform the 1 hour of work

1 hour of work will depend on the factors of production (Capital and labor) If the person is highly educated then the person can produce more within one hour.

There are lots of reliable statistics dealing with this subject and it is produced by many different international statistical agencies under productivity statistics. Productivity statistics will usually tell you how many hours people are working within a receptive period (quarterly, annually), will include how much input is used during this time, and the output that was produced.

The level of categorical information depends on which statistics agency is producing the data. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great example that produces data at the National and at the State level on hours worked, output, and productivity (https://www.bls.gov/lpc/state-productivity.htm ).

There has been lots of working papers on this topic. Try the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) website (https://www.nber.org/) and search by topic.

  • $\begingroup$ If the person is highly educated then the person can produce more within one hour. This is true only from a certain perspective. In general, a highly educated person will work in a sector that is not too much automated, and so, other things being equal (which they rarely are) their labour will be less productive than that of the manual worker. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2020 at 16:59

One possible measure is "GDP (or productivity) per hour worked": OECD, EU28.

  • $\begingroup$ This is the most straight forward definition with lots of available data. One should probably mention that this only measures paid work. OP asked about value produced which could be interpreted a lot more general. That is, me washing the laundry at home creates some value (to me, I wouldn't do it otherwise) but does not create any GDP. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Unpaid labour (unless it is slave labour) doesn't produce value. You can't sell your washing the laundry. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2020 at 17:02

Evaluating political economy from the perspective of an hour of labour is notoriously a labour theory of value.

The most well developed labour theory of value is Marxian labour theory of value.

Marxian labour theories of value treat one hour of standard productive labour at the standard skill level as worth one hour of productive labour. Capital and other inputs are amortised into the results of labour. Deficient or super effective labour is worth more or less than the standard hour of labour. (all labour hours must be realised, ie: paid for. Capitalists who produce speculatively but still pay their labourers, but fail to sell their produce are idiots [Capital, Volumes II and III]).

As there is no other reference point for value in this schema of analysis, one hour of labour is worth one hour of labour, unless your labourer is slow or dumb or fast or skilled.


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