Americans Work Way Too Much


In introducing shorter work weeks to their audience, John de Graff and Kevin Batker, both advocates on the ails of consumer culture mindset, describe a 1965 United States Senate subcommittee prediction which suggested that because of advancements in technology,

“Americans would be working only about 20 hours a week by the year 2000, while taking seven weeks or more of vacation a year.” 

Work hours had been on the decline since their peak at the height of the industrial age, the labor need decreasing due to automation and computing. They state that “until World War II, bread (higher wages) and roses (as in, shorter hours—time to smell the roses!) were the twin demands of the labor movement.” (de Graaf & Batker, 2011) However, the work hour rate leveled off and Americans adopted an attitude of working more hours than they needed to, in order to raise their standard of living. De Graff and Bakter offer convincing evidence that a shorter work week could provide range of benefits and solutions to contemporary labor issues. In fact, they blame the policy of the 40 hour week for a number of social problems, from unemployment to stress from overwork, and add “surely any economy based on the “greatest good” would take seriously the need for leisure.” (de Graaf & Batker, 2011)

I believe that the forty-hour work week is essentially arbitrary and ‘non-natural’.  I’m glad Google found the logic paying employees “to be effective, not to work 9 to 5.” My article covered similar territory around reduced weekly work hours, showing productivity gains, amidst a range of other economic, environmental, and social benefits.

“The average Dutch worker puts in fewer than 1,400 hours a year, compared with almost 1,800 for Americans. And yet, the Dutch economy has been very productive. Unemployment has been much lower than in the U.S., while the Netherlands has a positive trade balance and robust personal savings. Gallup Inc. ranks the Netherlands fifth in the world in life satisfaction (2010), behind only the Nordic countries (except Iceland) and well ahead of the U.S. Dutch emphasis on free time dates to at least 1982, when employers and unions signed the Wassenaar Agreement, in which unions accepted restrained wage growth in return for reductions in working hours and the expansion of part-time employment. The pact ended inflationary pressures and led to an economic turnaround that came to be called “the Dutch miracle.”

de Graaf, J. &. D. K. B. (2011, November 3). Americans work too much for their own good. Bloomberg. Retrieved from


Reduce the Workweek to 30 Hours
New York Times Opinion | Anna Coote | March 9, 2014

The Truth About The 40-Hour Workweek: It’s Actually 47 Hours Long
Think Progress | Bryce Covert | September 2, 2014

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