Over-Worked Americans

I haven’t been able to write a post in a few days because I am working a job I hate until I can start a job I love – so I decided to write a post about working. It turns out that Americans work more than any other industrialized country.

There was an interesting piece written by economist John Maynard Keynes in called, “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” in which he predicted that the economy would become so productive that we would barely need to work at all. Based on his theory, as technology keeps improving – people will need to work less and less. This shift is mainly due to automation or to cheap labor. The shift has already happened – in fact, since Keynes wrote the essay the average workweek went from around 50 hours a week in 1930 to 40 in 1970. And there it has stayed. Juliet Schor actually calculated that Americans work about a month more per year than in 1970.

So why hasn’t the trend continued till today?

Everyone disregards such studies claiming that workers are simply whining – but when Americans work more that the English, the French, and extremely more than the Germans, Norwegians and even the Japanese – These studies beg more attention.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 25 million Americans — 20.5 percent of the total workforce — reported they worked at least 49 hours a week in 1999. Eleven million of those said they worked more than 59 hours a week. And yet, only 26% of Americans feel they are over-worked. Experts say this is simply an illusion.

So why hasn’t American moved to a more leisurely life style? Benjamin Freidman, a Harvard economist said, “the U.S. economy is right on track to reach Keynes’s eight-fold multiple” by the year 2029. He set out to figure out why the increased production we have been seeing has not yet translated into more leisure time. He remarks that the claim Americans just want more money to buy the next best thing is, “at best, far from sufficient.”

Freidman finally determined that the standard of living would continue to rise for everyone but the prediction he made that Keynes’s “eight-fold” figure would hold up – but not for the median American worker. he predicted that by 2029, it is likely to by only 3.5 of that Keyes predicted. That is because the gains in productivity is not equally distributed among all workers. Those at the top benefit the most, where as those who preform for manual work are stuck working longer hours.

So next time you miss my wonderful posts, you will know why.


One thought on “Over-Worked Americans”

  1. I enjoyed reading your post. It is interesting how we are more productive than ever my some measures, yet we are still working longer hours than most would like to. Thanks for writing. Of course, if we do become more “productive,” spending less time at work, the questions then becomes: what do we spend out newly-acquired time on? Here’s a link to one of my recent posts on this topic:



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