Working long hours, and paying a price

Chances are you have been working the long hours that are increasingly common for many salaried employees, says the New York Times.

Officially, the average workweek has changed little in the last two decades. But those figures mask a shift in who works the most, says the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research:

  • In 1983, the lowest-paid workers were more likely to work long hours.
  • But by 2002, the most highly paid workers were twice as likely to work long hours as the lowest paid.

    Is all this work a bad thing?

  • There have been demands for shorter work hours since the late 18th century, when it was not uncommon to spend 70 or more hours each week performing some kind of manual labour.
  • In 1791, for example, Philadelphia carpenters went on strike, demanding a 10-hour workday.
  • And in the 1840s, the Lowell Female Labour Reform Association petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for a 10-hour workday for mill workers (both efforts failed).
    But our Puritan work ethic has been part of our culture for just as long. Some employees are drawn to challenging, demanding work and the outsize financial rewards that can follow. According to a survey of highly paid American workers published in 2006 by the Center for Work-Life Policy:

  • Some 21 percent – mostly men – said they worked at least 60 hours a week under highly stressful conditions.
  • Two-thirds of those respondents said they loved their work.

    Source: Kelley Holland, Working Long Hours, and Paying a Price, New York Times, July 27, 2008.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin / 29 July 2008

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