Japanese Productivity

Regarding Randall's post below, the reputation the Japanese have for long workdays and high productivity appears to be wildly exaggerated, or at least limited to a small subset of the population. Japan's PPP-adjusted per-capita GDP is on par with France and Spain, or about 25% below the US and Ireland. A small part of the gap can be explained by lower labor force participation among women (about 48% versus 58% in the US, according to this PDF), but not more than 3 to 4 percentage points. It's also not attributable to differences in age distributions, according to table 2.3 here.

As for those legendary long hours, the average Japanese worker worked about 1828 hours per year versus 1777 for Americans, or a difference of about 1 hour per week. The South Koreans, on the other hand, average 2390 hours per year--about 12 hours per week more than Americans.

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If only a small part of the

If only a small part of the Japanese working force is doing this, and it is the highly economically productive part, it still matters. CEOs in the US and in Japan work very long hours, as do the people in the next tier down. This tapers off as you go down the pay-scale, but presumably the Japanese taper more slowly. It really doesn't matter if the guy selling ice cream on the beach works a huge amount of hours or not.

It is not surprising

It is not surprising therefore that a margin of the population in Japan is very wealthy. They overwork themselves. But I do not think this represents who is more hardworking between races.

Income Distribution in Japan

According to Forbes, there were 29 billionaires in Japan in 2006 while the US had 374. The top 1% of Japanese income earners make about 8% of the income, while the top 5% make about 25%, compared to 16.5% and 31% in the US.