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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans may seem obsessed with football and Canadians are crazy about ice hockey, but it is nothing compared to China's devotion to basketball, according to a new poll released on Monday.
An online survey of 9,500 workers in eight countries showed that Chinese workers were the most likely to call in sick to view a sporting match, or after a late night watching or attending a game.
China also had the most people skipping work to play a sport, and basketball was most likely to spur absenteeism there.
"The findings were in line with the findings of our survey last year on absenteeism around the world," said Joyce Maroney, director the Workforce Institute at Kronos, the think tanks of the workforce management company that commissioned the Harris interactive online poll.
Nearly 60 percent of Chinese workers said they had called in sick to watch or attend a sports event, compared to only one percent of the French.
India was second in sport-related absenteeism, with the United Kingdom and Mexico a distant third or fourth. The countries with the lowest rates, besides France, were the United States, followed by Canada.
Soccer was the top sport spurring absenteeism in Australia, Mexico, United Kingdom and France, while in India it was cricket.
Although the poll did not look at the cause of the findings, Maroney suggests it is due to cultural differences.
"Does the fact that they (the French) work a 35-hour work week and have more time off than most other countries contribute?" Maroney asked. "Probably it does," she added.
"Look at a country like China, where people work incredible hours, 70 and 80 hours a week, with less time off and less regulation around paid time off, and it makes sense that they are calling in sick more frequently."
People questioned in the poll said flexible hours were the best way to stop healthy employees from calling in sick.
Most workers said they felt guilty about calling in sick to watch a sporting event and believe that unpaid leave or the option to work from home would help stem such absences.
Editing by Patricia Reaney