It is if you have other obligations, which some of us do.
And let’s face it, between commute, unpaid extra work that all of seem to do, extra school required to get ahead and parenting/charity work or whatever, why not work only 30 hours a week? There is no law of nature that says 40 hours a week should be the norm and with both parents working in most families, you have a lot less time for raising your children in a 40 hour work week than you used to 50 or 60 years ago. So, as social norms have changed and more requirements are placed on the individual (and making it harder to meet those requirements because of depressed wages and rising costs), changing the work week seems like a no brainier.
Besides most studies show that those of us in a knowledge based field rare accomplish more in an 8 hour day than we do in a 6 or 7 hour day.
What other nations, like Japan where the population is so old and the working environment so poor for women their population is shrinking and they’re begging people to have children?
Maybe China where their one child policy has left them a bunch of men with no chance in hell of ever finding a woman?
Or are you talking about large portions of Europe where they work less than we do and have more rights?
So many of our schools have older than dirt HVAC sytems, if they even have AC, that it’s an act of cruelty to put them in there during summer. I guess we could, of course rebuild or replace them with the money no one is making.
I agree that perhaps capitalism isn’t the problem but rather neoliberalism. The belief that we should promote the efficiency of the free market over and above the needs of the state. The idea that the self regulating free market can lead to a better world. In my opinion this has had the opposite effect and has led to increased inequality and reduced social mobility.
Some examples of this are:
Market Deregulation - The removal of checks and balances to make it easier for businesses to compete. This contributes to increased risk taking and corruption (e.g. 2008 financial crash) as well as a reduction in environmental concerns (businesses ignoring damage to the environment).
Privatization (Education) - Due to education costs we’re now pushing massive amounts of debt onto the younger generations before they’ve even had a chance to decide what they want in life. We’re essentially creating a generation of indentured servants.
Performance Targets (Education) - Performance reviews and efficiency targets have become ubiquitous in our society. Each school is now measured on its efficiency at getting pupils to pass examinations. This means that wealthier people move to areas with better schools, poorer people are left with poorer performing schools. This is effectively reducing social mobility.
You could argue that it’s simply human nature to compete with each other and super capitalism is just a reflection of that. It’s not a society I want to live in though - we can do better. I’m just not sure how…
I really enjoy Adam Curtis’s documentaries - although I don’t always agree with what he has to say.
If you’re interested, check out The Trap - a series of documentaries which explores the modern concept of freedom and says some interesting things about the rise of neoliberalism.
We all have other obligations. My parents worked more than 40 hours. My grandparents did. They all had other obligations too.
40 hours a week ain’t that much. Seriously. It’s not. There are a lot of folks who work WAY more.
Now, I’m more amenable to the idea that in the past it was perhaps easier to feed a family on just one paycheck, and so working longer hours still allowed for good child rearing. Matt’s point of the work day matching up with school days is valid.
Potentially you could have two folks working 30 hour weeks, but you don’t deserve the same pay as two people working 40 hour weeks then. But maybe that’s ok, maybe you can take a pay cut, but since you have two workers, still come out ok compared to past generations.
My main issue was just the idea that 40 hours was unsustainable… It’s not. I’ve worked far longer weeks in the past at points. Extremely long hours can wear on you, to be sure. But 40 hours? That just isn’t that hard.
This is almost certainly a better idea, but bear in mind that it would mean paying teachers more, and they are already being paid for too little for the job we are entrusting then to do.
Hours worked have dropped dramatically since the industrial revolution, but again, not as much as productivity has risen. I say it as a law of nature because it’s math. If we increase productivity per hour worked, we can either increase production or decrease hours worked.
You say this with such certainty, as if it were a law of nature. In fact, there are prosperous countries, mostly in western Europe, that have used productivity gains to reduce working hours.
Really, you don’t think dragging the whole economy around based on the needs of parents is warranted? A third of all households in the United States have children under 18. Half of households with working age adults have children under 18. In the U.S., less than 20% of women reach age 40 without having kids. Most people are parents or will be parents, and child-rearing occupies at least half of a person’s working years. Yes, designing economic regulatory policies, like the workweek length, to support parents makes quite a bit of sense. Hell, we have a ton of policies aimed at farmers or government workers or labor union members, and those are far smaller parts of the economy than parents of school-age children.
Your parents probably only had one full time parent, at least for part of youth and you parents were also paid better.
By the way, haven’t you heard, we are working more hours for less pay than our parents. I mean, you might not be, being a business owner, but the rest of us are. The rest of us work very hard for the smallest part of the pie.
Anyway, with all this automation and increased productively, why shouldnt the American people get paid more for less hours. Isn’t that the goal? There no moral imperative to work 40 hours a week just because it’s what we used to do. We used to work 60 or 80 hours. We used to have child labor. We used to have a minimum wage that was a living wage.
I have to agree with this. There was a time when people begged for a 40 hour week. I know when you have kids and the responsibilities that come with them that there is never enough home time, but 40 hours isn’t that much. And I can promise you every retail worker who gets only 30 hours a week would gladly take another 10.
Interestingly enough, I’m on a flight to Denmark as I type this. I’m there several times a year for business. Great country. Population of 6M. Holding the Scandinavian countries out as a model is a model for the US workweek is as practical as conservatives holding out Singapore as a model for corporate tax rates. Hell, Denmark is facing a nearly existential crisis regarding zealously defending those social benefits against immigrants, as we speak/type.
Even the Danes don’t try to do 30 hours. It’s 37 or 38 there. On the parenting front they address it, instead with the more sensible approaches of longer leave and subsidized childcare, rather than dropping the productivity of the whole economy.
I don’t know any professionals who work 40 hours a week, on average. It’s closer to 50 and 60. But yes, there are industries where people are begging for more hours, and they won’t give it to them. This is also the group that typically receives holiday or overtime pay.
Too many hours and too few can both be a problem, at the same time, that can be addressed.
I’m an engineer. On weeks I work the whole week (i.e. not vacation or holidays) I rarely work more than 40 hours. I have to bill my hours to contracts and any excess hours I work just cause them all to be pro-rated down to 40 anyway because the contracts won’t pay for more than 40 hours/week of an FTE’s time.
And the note about vacation and holidays is important. @Stepsongrapes’s comment above is telling. Most OECD countries have a work-week length of approximately 40 hours. It doesn’t vary that much from country to country. Mexico is high at about 48 hours/week usual weekly work hours for full-time dependent (i.e. not self-employed) employees, Denmark is low at about 37, and the U.S. is about average at 41.5.
That said, western European countries provide a ton of vacation time and holidays to employees. Annual hours worked is 20-25% lower in countries like Germany, France, and the UK (countries with a combined population of 235 million people @Stepsongrapes) than it is in the U.S.
Sure there are some but you get 100 people in a room from the USA, not from the same company, and if the conversation turns to work, you wind up with this weird kind of competition. You’ve got a few people talking about their 40-50 hour work weeks, someone always claims higher which will be a larger group if you have one company over represented and there is a Go-Live date, and in the back you have someone who will say 80, usually blue collar and then the one that doesn’t say anything at all because they got 28 hours last week, they work at Wal-Mart and they have no benefits, certainly no vacation.
Most people want something similar though, work-life balance and the ability to pay bills and not worry all the time. Instead of focusing on who “wins,” it seems more ideal to focus on the fact, and it is a fact, that real wages are not increasing. Anyone outside the 1% is losing, but boy are they good at getting people to turn against each other.
You don’t think that longer leave lowers productivity? Also consider that the solution to this problem for a highly visible segment of society in the post-WWII years was to have one of the parents (nearly invariably the mother) not work in order to devote themselves full-time to child-rearing and household maintenance. Two parents working 60 hours/week is 50% more productive than one parent working 40.
Totally agree with that first sentence. I think that’s generally true of most humans in the world: they just want to live and work and have family and community and raise their kids as free from stress as possible.
But, that second one seems at odds with it. Should we expect real wages to rise? In one sense, yes. Productivity per hour worked has risen, and the fruits of that are not being equally shared. On the other though, we’re not actually working more hours annually, and real wages are about the same as they have been for 20-30 years. IOW, our average standard of living hasn’t really changed. I’m not sure why I should expect to be better off than my parents were. Is it because there’s a sense that globally we’re all better off and we should get a piece of that?
Well if the costs of things out-pace the wages everyone is making, that’s a problem. It’s not really about whether or not we’re better off than our parents. If you can afford to send you kid to college, and your parents sent you to college, the future of your family is at risk of slipping down a class which is bad. If you are lower class and you want to move up a class, and the means to do that is essentially taken away, that’s a problem. It’s not just a measure of what’s behind us it’s also a measure of going forward too.
If we’re sicker, poorer, living on a planet that’d deteriorating, less safe… like any of these one points you can certainly argued but if things are digressing what are we working towards? If upward mobility is dead. The average home becomes out of reach. Your sick, and you have little hope… this is recipe for something we haven’t seen in awhile, revolution… and despite how exciting it might be to read about something like that, I suspect it’s not as much fun to live through.
If real wages are flat, then the wages are keeping up with the costs of things by definition.
These are real issues, but realize that upward mobility is a zero-sum game. Not everyone can be upwardly mobile. For me to gain a place, someone else has to drop. What we really want is just mobility between generations–so that who your parents are is a less important factor in how well you do economically–and less inequality among current generations, so that everyone can enjoy the relatively comfortable standard of living our society is capable of providing.
Of those things, only one of them is actually happening. We’re generally healthier, safer, and richer overall than we ever have been. I compare my life to, say, the Wilders from Little House on the Prairie. They mostly worked (and worked hard) the whole time the sun was up. I have tons of leisure compared to them, and way more things to do with it. The environment, well, I seriously think that issue is gonna make everything else in this whole thread moot. And yeah, it’s not gonna be fun to live through.
You can find graphs that show you what’s going on. It’s a problem. not something I just made up.
No, not really. For one thing you don’t have to literally move up but have the opportunity to, hope. If the entire society moves forward then everyone benefits. I am talking about a chance. We could give college and healthcare away right now and some people will still not use or take advantage. Opportunity and hope is still… real. And you don’t have to down the top to move the bottom closer to the top. There is no reason to think that.
You are answering like you are answering my question when I am answering yours. You asked me what happens if we are not better off as a generation, what do you mean by not better off then if you’re not talking about poorer, sicker, less safe… I mean your’e the one saying we don’t have an inherent right to be better off so why object when I point out what being not better off looks like?
“And then lastly, wages for most workers have been “flat” for 4 decades but that’s only if you look at inflation in the aggregate. If you look at the cost of housing, higher education and health care, those have all gone up much more swiftly than wages for most Americans. And those areas are the core to long term prosperity, long term opportunity and long term stability. So wages are “flat” if you factor in being able to buy a bigger TV, but in terms of the foundations of long term quality of life, wages are actually relatively down for most Americans.”