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日本の労働時間は世界でも長いほうだ。

I guess the sentence means something along the lines of "Even within the [whole] world, the working hours in Japan are long". But I think it could be expressed simply without the「ほうだ」bit:

日本の労働時間は世界でも長い。

I know that 「方【ほう】」can mean direction; side; way or manner, but none of these meanings seems to fit well here. According to the dictionary, there is also the meaning "type, category" which could be a good candidate. I'm thinking of something like working hours of the "long type" (長いほう), but I'm just speculating.

I also have the feeling that some sort of comparison is happening here as ほう is used for comparison in patterns such as (〜より 、〜ほうが), where the working time in Japan is being compared to the working time in the world, but I can't figure it out.

Mind I'm not sure about the 「世界でも」part, so if my "even within the world" translation is not right, please feel free to correct it as well.

よろしくお願いします!

10

If I were translating these sentences naturally but relatively 'faithfully' into English, I'd probably go for the following:

日本の労働時間は世界でも長いほうだ。

Working hours in Japan are on the long(er) side, even globally.

Working hours in Japan are at the long(er) end, even globally.

~ ~ ~

日本の労働時間は世界でも長い。

Working hours in Japan are long, even globally.

I translate 長いほう as 'long(er) side/end' to give a sense of direction, which ほう expresses. As you note, ほう often crops up in comparisons, because it indicates the choice of one way or one thing instead of another - perhaps you can think about it as one choice that is directionally different from another choice.

For the same reason, you use ほう(=方) for expressions like "On the one hand ... on the other hand" : 一方{いっぽう}・・・一方{いっぽう}.

N.B. I know you said that you didn't think 'side' was a good fit here, so apologies that I used it above -- the sentence I suggest would be well understood in (British) English, I think!

  • 2
    No need to apologise, English is not my native language so I just didn't realise that "side" could be used in such way. Your translations make perfect sense. Thank you! – jarmanso7 Sep 8 at 21:09
  • No worries! Glad you found the answer helpful! :) – henreetee Sep 8 at 21:17
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It is the following definition on 明鏡国語辞典:

❺ 《「…━だ」の形で、連体修飾句を受けて》どちらかというとその部類に属する意を表す。

「背は高い━だ」

「これだけできれば上出来の━だ」

Your sentence says that if the world was divided into the countries that work "long" hours and those that don't, Japan would belong among the countries that work "long" hours.

日本の労働時間は世界でも長い。(Japan's working hours are long even globally)

日本の労働時間は世界でも長いほうだ。(Japan's working hours are on the long side even globally)

is the difference expressed in English.

4

I asked a Japanese person about this sentence, and her explanation is that adding ほうだ at the end of the sentence "softens" the statement. In other words, it adds a feeling of uncertainity or relativity to the statement, i.e. a feeling that the speaker is not completely sure about what he or she is saying. I also found an answer in a Q&A forum that supports this explanation.

According to this explanation, the original sentence could be translated as:

日本の労働時間は世界でも長いほうだ。 Working hours in Japan are relatively long, even globally.

I don't think this explanation is mutually exclusive with the answers given here (that ~長いほう means "on the long(er) side") , but it's worth bringing it to the table. Perhaps some other Stack members can provide more insight into this?

Thank you all!

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