America: where rising productivity means longer working hours

In most countries, rising productivity means fewer working hours: but US workers, among the world's most productive, put longer hours than other rich-country workers, especially nordic workers -- if America's productivity/hours curve worked like it does in Denmark and Norway, American workers would get an additional 2.2 months of vacation every year.

But America doesn't get much for all that extra work: compared to Nordic countries, the USA has "wild levels of inequality, poverty, and absolute material deprivation."

It's just another way in which America is the world's first rich poor country.

The US puts in the most overall hours of work on this measure as well, despite having a slightly below-average overall employment rate and higher hourly productivity than all of the Nordic countries except Norway.

What this all shows is that we don’t need more work in America. We have too much of it already.

There is a good case for redistributing the work in the US a bit more broadly. The best way to do that would be to decrease the amount of hours people currently employed have to work by providing more holidays, vacation, paid leave, and sick leave, and then increasing the ability of others to work by providing social care for children, the elderly, and the disabled and by implementing active labor market policies.

The Overworked American [Matt Bruenig/Jacobin]

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