|Working Longer and Harder|
|Key Words||ILO, work year, boom growth, overtime, recessions, employers, hours, productivity|
The International Labor Organization (ILO), a U.N. agency, has found that Americans are working harder than ever. During the 1990s, they added a week to their work year, as the number of hours worked on average rose 36 hours to 1,978. In terms of weeks, that adds up to 49-1/2 weeks a year at 40 hours a week.
Japanese workers used to work the most hours, but American workers exceeded the Japanese average in the mid-1990s. Now Americans work 2-1/2 weeks more than the Japanese, 6 weeks more than British workers, and 12-1/2 weeks more than German workers. In fact, typically, other nations are reducing their work years.
Economists have many hypotheses to explain the trends. Some believe that Americans are keen to impress, so work long hours. Customarily, while Americans take two or three weeks vacation each year, Europeans often take four to six weeks. Mothers are returning to work sooner. Many people have taken jobs as salaried professionals and are working long hours, while low-wage workers need to work more to make ends meet.
Others believe that the U.S. economic boom of the 1990s provided more work and higher incomes, whereas growth was slower elsewhere. Employers reacted by increasing overtime in many cases. (Ironically, in recessions, although overtime may fall in some firms, in others, employers often downsize and ask the remaining workers to work longer hours.) Meantime the French government reduced the work week to 35 hours to create more jobs.
Productivity per U.S. worker in 2000 was $54,870 in constant 1990 dollars,
about $1,500 more than in Belgium, $10,000 more than Canada, and $14,000
higher than in Canada. However, in terms of productivity per hour, France
and Belgium edged out the U.S. Some believe that working long hours leads
to burnout and diminishing returns.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
|Source||No Author, "Work week in U.S. keeps getting longer," St. Petersburg Times, September 1, 2001. (Reprinted from New York Times)..|
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