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The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World – When do we Draw the Line?

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ravochol posted on Thu, Oct 14 2010 10:00 AM

The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World – When do we Draw the Line?

Submitted by G.E. Miller on Tuesday, 12 October 2010
 
 
 

We, as Americans, work too many hours. If you don’t believe so, check out the following data points that compare us to our peers around the world.

American Work-Life Balance

  • According to the Center for American Progress on the topic of work and family life balance, “in 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, 70 percent of American children live in households where all adults are employed.” I don’t care who stays home and who works in terms of gender (work opportunity equality for all – it’s a family choice). Either way, when all adults are working (single or with a partner), that’s a huge hit to the American family and free-time in the American household.
  • The U.S. is the ONLY country in the Americas without a national paid parental leave benefit. The average is over 12 weeks of paid leave anywhere other than Europe and over 20 weeks in Europe.
  • Zero industrialized nations are without a mandatory option for new parents to take parental leave. That is, except for the United States.

american work ethic

American Average Work Hours:

  • At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not.
  • In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week.
  • According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”
  • Using data by the U.S. BLS, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950. One way to look at that is that it should only take one-quarter the work hours, or 11 hours per week, to afford the same standard of living as a worker in 1950 (or our standard of living should be 4 times higher). Is that the case? Obviously not. Someone is profiting, it’s just not the average American worker.

American Paid Vacation Time & Sick Time:

  • There is not a federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States.
  • The U.S. remains the only industrialized country in the world that has no legally mandated annual leave.
  • In every country included except Canada and Japan (and the U.S., which averages 13 days/per year), workers get at least 20 paid vacation days.  In France and Finland, they get 30 – an entire month off, paid, every year.
  • Then there’s this depressing graph on average paid vacation time in industrialized countries:

American paid vacations

The Impact of Too Much Work

I’m not telling you to work less hours. If you genuinely love what you do and are doing it for the right reasons, you are more than entitled to spend all of your waking hours plugging away.

But for many of us, more work leads to more stress and a lower quality of life. Without time to unwind, take care of your home, spend time with loved ones, enjoy our hobbies, connect with friends, and generally live a more balance life. Stress is the #1 cause of health problems – mentally and physically. And there are few things that stress us out on a consistent basis like work does, especially when it takes away from all of the other things that life has to offer.

Americans are the Outliers

And if all of this data tells anything, it’s that we are the outliers, not the norm. Why are we the outliers?

  • Our companies fairly ruthlessly let people go. We want to keep our jobs and not be a ‘low performer’ compared to others.
  • Decay of the union has led to less paid time off and other leave benefits.
  • Cultural value of money over everything else. We love money, we want more of it, and we think money can buy happiness. And the more we work, the more we get paid.
  • It’s been drilled in our heads that we are lazy compared to emerging market counterpart workers in India, Mexico, China, and other parts of Asia. Who isn’t? And what is our mental image of the work environments in those locales? To validate those fears, our jobs are being outsourced to the cheap labor in those countries. In reality, the U.S. is still the world leader in productivity per person.
  • Our legislative branch of the government (on both sides of the aisle) has been bought and as a result has shied away from passing laws that protect workers that every other industrialized nation has passed.
  • We generally don’t fight for our working rights. We take what is given to us.

What we All Need to Remember

  • What we all need to remind ourselves is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
  • It’s OK to ask to move to fewer hours at work.
  • It’s OK to take a week-long vacation if we need to.
  • It’s OK to ask to work from home.
  • It’s OK to take a month of unpaid leave while you raise a child.
  • It’s OK… you get the idea.

Don’t let life pass you by in the name of fear, circumstance, greed, or misguided hopes. Sometimes you just need to draw a line in the sand and say “enough is enough”.

Overworked Discussion:

  • Do you think we work too hard?
  • Do you like the cultural norm around your workplace on working hour expectations?
  • How have you been able to limit unhealthy overworking habits?
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Sieben replied on Thu, Oct 14 2010 10:14 AM

Didn't you JUST put up a thread about how Americans aren't working enough?

unemployment =  unitilized capacity =  less total REAL WEALTH.

full employment = maximum capacity = maximum total wealth produced.

 



Again, challenge me at debate.org. I know if I actually refute your nonsense here, you'll ignore me. If you're confident, you should have no second thoughts about debating me in front of a diverse audience.

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We generally don’t fight for our working rights.

What are "working rights"?

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That productivity statistic could be misleading. I bet the most productive people do have a standard of living 4 times or greater than the most productive in 1950.

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ravochol replied on Thu, Oct 14 2010 10:44 AM

Didn't you JUST put up a thread about how Americans aren't working enough?


Everyone I know is either overworked or unemployed.

 

There is no contradiction here. In fact, from the boss class's point of view, they are highly complimentary.

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Sieben replied on Thu, Oct 14 2010 10:50 AM

Seriously, formulate a resolution at debate.org. You have always run away from any and all arguments against your position. I refuse to put any effort into engaging you because it will be wasted. A debate will force you to address me. If you are so confident in your positions, you should not limit yourself to trolling mises.org with a few liberal articles and folk-kenysian economics.

 

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Bogart replied on Thu, Oct 14 2010 2:22 PM

The article left out the most important part: What is the real economic cost of these “benefits” and who will ultimately pay that cost.  At best the entire work forces pays through lower wages and more restrictive working environments.  At worst the unemployed pay as their productivity is not high enough to cover the extra costs of these benefits to employers.

But the issue with this kind of Fascism is that even in the best case of dispersed payers, the ones who foot the bill are the ones who do not need the services.  So they see the greatest loss in productivity and ALSO HAVE THE BIGGEST INCENTIVE to avoid paying by reducing their productivity.  This cost like the cost to the unemployed is not easily calculated, in fact it is impossible to determine.  That is why growth rates in countries decline as government increases.

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Everyone I know is either overworked or unemployed.

Are you serious? I thought you were putting this up to show us how annoying it was. If your friends are overworked, tell them to stop being lazy or quit the job. If they're unemployed, tell them to work for free/cheap or to make a job. I'm in college and work 3 separate jobs, two of which are for free and one of which I get paid $7 per week to do. I'm doing that so I can build my resume and get a good job when the economy is back on track.

Do you think the State should be able to force me to work less than I want to?

The entire ideology of the left is telling us that we're working too much and we need to go to school for longer. You realize on the one of the graphs that the United States, Japan, the UK, and Switzerland are all next to each other. I wonder why that is.

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  • Do you think we work too hard? im not going arbitrarily speak for other people.but have had a union restrict my hours when i wanted 2 work longer. was i better off i guess they know what is good 4 me
  • Do you like the cultural norm around your workplace on working hour expectations?what cultural norm i know people who work 80 hours and some who work none
  • How have you been able to limit unhealthy overworking habits?personaly when i work im in oz and work long weeks the pays great but when back in new zealand i hardly work at all love my free time over our wages here
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"I'm not a fan of Murray Rothbard." -- David D. Friedman

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Answered (Not Verified) Prime replied on Thu, Oct 14 2010 4:51 PM

Why don't you work as much or as little as you choose, and allow me to do the same? Thanks.

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Student replied on Fri, Oct 15 2010 12:01 PM

neat initial post :) 

ravochol, what sort of economic model do you have in mind when you are making this argument?

at first, i thought you were saying that the reason americans are overworked is that u.s. companies have significant bargaining power in the labor market such that they can nagotitate wages below their competitive levels (indirectly of course by making people work more hours rather than lowering their nominal salary). and you think that we should use government action to increase wages (by decreasing the number of hours worked per dollar of salary). in this case, your argument comes down to a failure in the labor market. 

however, at the end of your post in the second "we need to remember", you seem to suggest that we are actually choosing to overwork ourself and that we could choose to work less. this argument seems to contradict the first because the problem here would be that there is some underlying irrationality that is leading people to make choices that leave them worse off, where as in the first argument workers didn't have much say in setting their work schedule. 

could you clarify which of these two arguments you had in mind? or maybe its a mixture of both (they are phrased in a contradictory way, but the arguments could be rephrased to make them complementary). 

Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine - Elvis Presley

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William replied on Fri, Oct 15 2010 12:16 PM

I don't get it.  Is the focus on this article the "we need to remember" and discussion questions like "do you think we work too hard", or did I miss the point?

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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thats the way i took it, but it is kinda vague

Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine - Elvis Presley

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He's just ranting about the U.S. not having enough labour controls and trying to portray the amount of time people spend working as an objective issue to give credence to the complaint.

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