My brother tells a story about a guy he knew who died in his company car park leaving his retirement ceremony, and always laughs at the end. Hard work is fetishized as a good thing. Doctors say that when patients suffer stress they’ve learned not to ask ‘Are you working hard at the moment?’ because nobody ever says no.
But the Puritan ethic encourages us to put in extra hours in the belief that we’ll increase our productivity and quality of work, and become richer. Now a new survey suggests that this may not be true at all. To quote from the website ‘Foreign Policy’ here;
‘The average net worth of Canadians has surpassed that of Americans. Adding insult to injury, Canadians have universal health care and a lower unemployment rate. According to the OECD, the rich world’s think tank, the average number of hours worked each year by someone employed in the US is 1,787. In Britain it’s 1,625 hours. In Germany, the average employee works just 1,413 hours a year – that’s more than 12 workweeks off. Nobody ever accuses Germans of being lazy; a lot of that is because the European Union mandates four weeks of paid vacation a year.’
US productivity is very high, but presumably employees aren’t being passed the benefit. If you live in the US, you’re not guaranteed paid vacation by the government, and nearly a quarter of workers get no paid holidays at all. Japan mandates 10 paid days off, and Greeks – contrary to popular belief – work hard with roughly 2,032 hours put in a year. But most Europeans are able to enjoy more home time with their kids, leading to better social behaviour, and increased quality of life.
Clearly the long-accepted correlation between working hard and getting wealthier depends on where you live.If you’re in a Catholic country, you get around twenty saints’ days off too.
Londoners work hard but between Christmas and New Year very few people go into work at all. The Foreign Policy site is interesting but tends to scaremonger somewhat. It’s worth a look, though. Me, I’m taking the afternoon off.