Has your boss ever told you to work fewer hours? Were you told before that your 40 hour week is being reduced down to a third or a half what you use to make and still make the same amount at the end of the two weeks? I’ll wait……..I didn’t think so. It’s no secret or accident that Americans are over-worked, over-stressed, over-tired, under-paid and over-reaching for economical goals that are placed with intent just centimeters out of reach. The population of the working poor are gradually replacing the once thriving middle class.
I was talking to a friend who lost her high paying job and manage to find a job that pays a lot less. Now she’s working and drowning in debt. At one point was working two jobs and I worked 7 days a week between the two jobs. I had 64 – 70 hour work weeks and even with both jobs I wasn’t even scratching the $50,000 a year mark. I can tell you from experience there’s nothing more draining and frustrating then sitting down with your spouse going over bills and not being able to pay then knowing you worked all day and all night.
One article from “The Atlantic” says the opposite that were working less. Huh!!!! The argument is that within the last 60 plus years the workforce is being replaced new technologies. The magazine claims that their has been a significant drop in an annual hours per worker for 1950 – 2012. Another argument state the shift from women spending more time in the office than at home and now the men are home more because of less avidity for male – dominated industries. In 1965 on average women ages 25 – 54 fair 15 hours a week working and 43.4 hours doing housework.
By 2011 that number jumped to 25 hours a week and 28.5 housework hours. While men in 1965 worked 41.9 his a week to 11.8 of housework. 2011 the average was 32.6 hours a week to 16.8 of housework a week. Since the nature of marriage have changed so has the workforce. What used to be pairing of opposites is now more likely to be combining of like intellects and work occupations. The set work week has also been changed by cell phones. A Harvard Business School survey of managers and professionals. The study was for those who were “on” either working, or “monitoring work” and remaining accessible.
The study shows that a disproportioned amount of time was used for monitoring and little time working. North Americans spent 88.5 hours monitoring as opposed to Europeans with 82 hours and Asians with 80.5. The article in “The Atlantic” did note what was called “leisure inequality”. This explains the asymmetry between the downtime difference for Americans with a college degree than those without. On average American men have 3.6 hours of leisure time and women have .3 hours. While men without college degrees on average have -2.5 hours and women average -2.0 hours.
On the contrary an article written by ABC News back in the early 2000’s gives a different perspective. The article blames road rage, workplace shootings, rising number of children in day care and the demand for schools to provide after school programs on Americans being over-stressed and over-worked. In 1999 The Bureau of Labor statistics shown that 25 plus million Americans or 20.5% of the workforce worked 49 hours a week and 11 million said they worked 59 hours a week. A book written in 1997 stated that Americans in 1990 worked almost a full month more per year that they did in 1970. Even then the argument was more women were entering the workforce working part-time jobs. Leaving a gap in a household chores.
Laura Flanders an author for “The Nation” reports that in 2011, 70% of Americans left their vacation days untouched. She also noted that Americans work almost five weeks more a year than our peers in Europe. Family leave is still unpaid under federal law and paid sick days are being attacked as well. Flanders offered a suggestion to march for leisure. She noted the last time US labor unions marched was for an eight-hour work day after the depression of 1884. Banners called for “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest and eight hours for what we will.”
Flanders points out that the labor force in America is the smallest it’s been in 20 years and thanks to globalization and computerization the demand for US labor is just not there as strong as it was before.
So let’s make a comparison between the US and Europe and let’s see how they stack up against each other. Generally the US has a 40 hour work week and any hours over 40 in a week will be overtime pay. States like California are setup differently, every minute over a 8 hour work day is subject to overtime pay. So an example is given if an employee works four 10 hour days they have fulfilled the full 40 hours for the week with no over time. In California the same employee working the same hours will get two hours overtime for hours worked past the essential 8 in a work day. Overtime in the US is 1.5 times the pay of a normal wage.
In Europe –
The French have a 35 hour work week. Also there limitations on overtime in France. In Switzerland the work week is 45 hours in industrial and retail industries and 50 hours in other industries. In Austria the work week is 40 hours a week, the overtime pay is plus 50%. On Sundays and Holidays it is plus 100%. Also employees are forced to take an 11 hour period between tow work days. Germans work between 36 and 39 hours a week. The cap for them is 48 hours per week (that includes overtime). Overtime pay is a 25% premium and night work is 10%. Belgium is even more complicated. They have a five-day, 38 hours workweek, not all days are equally long. Overtime pay is 50% on Sundays and 100% on Holidays. Employees can not work over 11 hours overtime per day and 50 hours per week. The also need to take an 11 hour period between two work days.
Wages in the US-
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. Some states do not adhere to the wage and have ranges of wages from $5.15 in Georgia and Wyoming, $8.67 in Washington State.
Wages in Europe –
In Europe minimum wages are based on monthly earnings. In the Euro zone the amounts range from 55 euros in Montenegro or 170 euros in nearby Kosovo, to over 1.682 euros in Luxemburg. Switzerland and Scandinavian do not have a minimum wage. German employees are covered by a minimum wage of 1.400 euros or over 8 euros per hour. The German “mini-job” programs offers work at around 5 euros per hour.
So you heard the arguments do you think Americans are overworked? My personally opinion is that the evidence is in the society we live in. That is the best barometer for the conditions in the workplace. Typical a stressed out population usually doesn’t have the laxed work schedule that other countries do. I could be wrong let me know.