Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why we're working less than our parents did

As a whole, Americans are working far less now than they did a generation ago, and have more leisure time than ever.

The average work week has gone from over 38 hours in 1964 to under 34 hours in 2013 -- a drop of nearly 12%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A big reason for the decline is the growth in part-time jobs, which have surged as more women entered the workforce and the number of restaurants, shopping malls, and other establishments that employ part-time workers have exploded.

Another explanation is that people tend to stay in school longer and retire earlier, clocking fewer hours over their lifetime. Men in their 50s, for example, have been retiring or entering semi-retirement earlier and in greater numbers than those in previous generations, according to John Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, and are partly responsible for driving down overall work hours per week.

Coinciding with the shorter work week is a rise in leisure time. Americans reported having just under 35 hours a week of "free time" in 1965 -- that's time not spent at work, doing housework, eating, sleeping or doing other activities necessary for day-to-day survival, according to research by Robinson, who directs the American's Use of Time Project at the University of Maryland.

By 2012, it had reached 42, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some people, especially those at the higher end of the earnings spectrum, report working more hours than they want to. This is particularly true for professionals who are now tied to their work by smartphones and email.

Also, many Americans are working part time not because they want to, but because their jobs have been replaced by automation, outsourced, or otherwise eliminated. CNN

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