Hard Work Never Killed Anyone

Film, London, Observatory


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.

4 comments on “Hard Work Never Killed Anyone”

  1. John Howard says:

    Well Helen, does you net worth feel more than Dans? As for the statistics of non paid workers, does the survey differentiate between the paid holidays that are mandated for between part time and full time workers when it gives the figures? (We all know what Mark Twain or possibly Disraeli said about statistics).

    I think we should all move to Australia because their attitude seems to be work hard between 9-5 and then finish on the dot and, i’m told by Aussies, there is no pressure to put in those little extra hours.

    Have fun on your relaxing afternoon off Admin.. ( These people who for for themselves get all the perks not like us REAL workers; exits stage left mumbling )

  2. admin says:

    Yes John but at least you get weekends – us home-workers often go through seven days a week!

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    The Foreign Policy website is worth a look and from my point of view, it is more interesting than it used to be. (When it started and for decades, it was a 1/3 of an inch thick, had pages with a “pebbly” finish and “cut” right sides, was bound in heavier grey covers, slightly over-size, and had no adverts. It looked great on the coffee table in your office, but the articles were usually so obscure and exhaustive that I – for one – could seldom find anything I wanted to read or that would help my career. No one else read it either, so no discussion.) It was where ex-Secretaries of State wrote wonkishly. Now, on the web it can be more interesting, but probably needs the hook of “scaremongery.” The preceeding is a bit early FP by way of example.
    As a “retired person”, I can now say that “yes” Americans do work too hard and it leaves many of them with family problems, health problems, and they can be very boring to talk with, as it’s all about their employment.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Not having been ambitious and with a husband too sane to be overly ambitious my net worth is probably less than Dan’s, but my partial pension includes extra medical and dental so that’s pretty good. (I don’t imply that you are either insane or overly ambitious, Dan.) Since cell phones and e-mail were invented my husband is subject to work contact at any time. His phone even vibrated in the middle of church once. It’s very difficult to compare apples and apples when you’re talking about work. And look at the Greeks with their work load, theoretically, and the situation their country is in. Perhaps those very lovely pensions were deemed a just reward for all the work they put in.
    Ken is 70 and retiring at the end of Dec. It’s only in the last few weeks that his work has stopped being tremendous fun.

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