Anthony Hilton: Why the West isn't best when it comes to work

Doug McWilliams, head of the Centre for Economic and Business Research consultancy, has just delivered his inaugural lecture in a series he is to deliver as the recently-appointed Professor of Commerce at Gresham College.

He spent his childhood in Malaysia so it is not surprising that one of his themes is the shift in economic power from West to East and North to South, and the fact that we in the West have not even begun to appreciate the impact this will have or the changes we will have to make to stay in the global game.

By way of illustration, he compared the average working hours in this country to those of Singapore and Hong Kong. The employed British worker typically does a 35-hour week but, by the time three weeks holiday and bank holidays are factored in, is operational for a little under 47 weeks a year. That gives a total of 1,625 hours compared with a typical 2,287 hours in Hong Kong and 2,307 in Singapore.

What this means in practical terms is that the Singaporean works the equivalent of more than four months a year more than we do.