The top 10 most productive countries in 2021

Viesturs Abelis 20.01.2022
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Most productive countries in the world banner

Every year, at DeskTime, we dig into our data to uncover who’s been working hard and who’s been hardly working. 

Today, we’re looking back at last year to determine the top 10 most and least productive countries in the world in 2021 and see what has changed compared to previous years.

Following the absolute trainwreck that was 2020, we expected 2021 to bring some semblance of normalcy back to our daily lives. Instead, we got new strains of the Covid-19 virus, lockdowns, the Great Resignation, an energy crisis, a supply chain disaster, and much more. 

Still, as far as work is concerned, 2021 solidified hybrid and remote work as a permanent fixture of the modern work environment, to the benefit of both workers and employers. Everyone knows how to use Zoom now. People have more freedom to choose a suitable workplace. And, reportedly, average productivity is up. 

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So, how has all of this, among other things, affected our standings for the most and least productive countries in the world? 

Main takeaways for 2021:

  • Global productivity average in 2021 (63.72%) has, in fact, dropped by 9.66% compared to 2020 (73.38%). 
  • The Latin American trio of Uruguay, El Salvador, and Argentina take home gold, silver, and bronze, respectively, as the most productive countries of 2021. 
  • On the other end of the list, Russia, Portugal, and Moldova, close out the bottom as the least productive countries of 2021. 
  • Compared to previous years, productivity has fallen among the top countries. For instance, last year, Qatar made the cut at #10 with 89.8% productivity, whereas this year, Australia’s 71.4% were enough to secure a spot in the top most efficient countries.
  • Conversely, productivity has risen among the bottom countries. Russia’s 45.4% productivity has put it as the least productive country this year, but last year, they wouldn’t even be in the top 5 least productive countries. 

Below you’ll find this year’s data, a comparison to previous years, and a quick remark in regards to methodology. 

The most productive countries in the world (2019-2021)

#202120202019
1Uruguay (94.3%)Angola (99.1%)Nicaragua (97.8%)
2El Salvador (93.0%)Cyprus (98.9%)Chile (96.2%)
3Argentina (84.0%)Nicaragua (96.7%)Hungary (95.1%)
4Peru (83.1%)Peru (94.1%)Indonesia (93.0%)
5Malta (81.8%)El Salvador (94.0%)Serbia (91.9%)
6Qatar (80.9%)Uganda (93.7%)Turkey (91.5%)
7Costa Rica (80.0%)Guatemala (92.7%)Belgium (91.3%)
8Ecuador (78.9%)Georgia (92.5%)Guatemala (90.5%)
9Israel (72.1%)Kenya (92.1%)Denmark (90.0%)
10Australia (71.4%)Qatar (89.8%)Israel (89.8%)

The productivity percentages you see are calculated by dividing the productive time (how much time a user spends in apps deemed productive by their employer) by the total time spent on DeskTime (which is typically a full workday). 

Uruguay is the most productive country in the world in 2021. That said, looking at productivity by country, it has decreased across the board, compared to previous years. For instance, Peru managed to maintain their 4th place, despite worker productivity falling by 11%. 

Though this is certainly the result of many dynamic factors, one major one is the higher levels of burnout people are experiencing in their workplace. A core driver for the Great Resignation and a productivity killer, burnout is on the rise. We spend more time isolated, are stuck in virtual meetings, work longer, and are constantly bombarded with negative news – it’s getting increasingly difficult to perform at your best.

The least productive countries in the world (2019-2021)

#202120202019
1Russia (45.4%)Suriname (23.1%) The Czech Republic (39.2%)
2Portugal (49.5 %)Mauritius (24.6%)Mexico (41.5%)
3Moldova (49.5%)Brazil (36.0%)Moldova (43.4%)
4Ukraine (51.4%)Kazakhstan (36.8%)Canada (43.9 %)
5Finland (51.9%)Trinidad and Tobago (43.8%)Switzerland (50.1 %)
6France (55.5%)Oman (45.1%)Croatia (54.5%)
7Pakistan (56.8%)Hong Kong (45.7%)Ukraine (57.3%)
8Netherlands (57.1%)Nepal (47.1%)Brazil (57.7%)
9Germany (57.2%)Algeria (47.5%)Russia (58.7%)
10Bangladesh (58.6%)Palestine (47.9%)Germany (58.7%)

While we saw an understandable dip in productivity of countries in 2020, it looks like 2021 has helped the less productive ones stabilize, returning the rankings to similar results we saw in 2019, with Moldova, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine returning to the “top”. 

It seems that, after a 2020 battered by Covid-19, the turmoil surrounding remote work has died down in 2021 as workers have acclimatized to a new way of working, and systems have been put in place to support it. 

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Where the productive country list is dominated by Latin American countries, the unproductive list primarily features European nations. That said, these countries at the bottom of the list are faring relatively well and productivity above 50% is nothing to scoff at. Still, we’re seeing significant geographical trends emerge – is Europe really the least productive continent?

Certainly seems so, as far as DeskTime users are concerned. 

Man reading about most productive countries in the world

DeskTime and methodology

DeskTime is a time-tracking solution used by people worldwide to keep track of their personal and their team’s productivity. With over 380,000 users across 215 countries, we are in a unique position to observe various work trends – you can find a list of our discoveries here. All our studies are fully anonymous. 

Note on methodology: When comparing worker productivity by country for this study, we extracted the data for countries with more than 100 users. As mentioned before, productivity is calculated by dividing the productive time by the total time spent on DeskTime. 

Conclusion

As in years before, Latin America continues to dominate the list of most productive countries in the world, even in the wake of a global dip in productivity. 2021 also saw some normalcy as the bottom of the list stabilized, with Russia earning the title of the least productive country in the world. 

What’s going to happen in 2022? Bar any major disasters, we expect to see workforce productivity increase among the top countries, as people rediscover their mojo, find new and better jobs, and learn to better cope with the new reality. 

But that’s just a prediction. Only time will tell.

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