Since the introduction of technology, working professionals are expected to be available around the clock. In fact, France, in an effort to protect their workers, passed a new law barring work e-mail after hours, under the long supported notion by economists that: working longer hours does not result in increased productivity. However, even spouses who choose to stay at home are becoming increasingly busy. Economist Juliet Schor describes the increasing standard of cleanliness that has brought additional work to stay-at-home parents: from 1925-1965 the amount of time spent on laundry in the United States vastly increased; what was the contributing factor? The invention of the automatic washers and dryers. Tools like computers and washing machines, invented to save us time and energy, are actually taking up more of our time as standards of professionalism and cleanliness increase with capability.
Although this is a globalized problem, America is the poster child for busyness. I am a dual citizen of the United States of America and Italy, and have benefitted from the rigorous American work ethic and the relaxed Italian lifestyle. Italian workers receive 42 paid vacation days per year. A surprising figure, but come on, Italians are always extreme! However, Germany, a country known for its work ethic and efficiency, has 35 paid vacation days every year. How many do we receive in America? 12. We get 12 paid vacation days, and is anyone complaining? No! Because most of these vacation days go unused within the United States!
In addition to our lack of paid vacation days, the United States does not benefit, like 185 other countries in the world, from paid parental leave. Instead we join countries like Papua New Guinea, Oman, and Swaziland with unpaid maternity leave, not to even mention unpaid paternity leave.
So why do we do this? Does all this extra work make us more productive? Not necessarily. David Johnson, a writer for Time magazine explains:
“Mexico—the least productive of the 38 countries listed in 2015 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—has the world’s longest average work week at 41.2 hours (including full-time and part-time workers). At the other end of the spectrum, Luxembourg, the most productive country, has an average workweek of just 29 hours.
The United States ranks fifth, according to the OECD, contributing $68.30 to the country’s GDP per hour worked, countering claims that Americans are the most productive workers in the world. America put in more hours—33.6 per week on average—than all four of the European countries with higher productivity rankings.”
As I continued to research this topic I found that America was continually falling in the ranks of productivity while forever increasing their number of work hours. A 2016 study by YouGov Uk showed America to be the 10th most productive country in the world, while remaining the nation on the top ten list that works the most hours.The U.K. is taking a leading role in calling for change. YouGov Uk found that a “working day of seven hours or less would be most productive, and 44% of professionals agree that the work week should be less than five days.