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03 August 2005

All Work And No Play

In Santa Fe, N.M., Linda Strauss McIlroy, a first-time mother, is trying to get used to the thought of soon putting her two-month-old boy in day care so she can get back to work.

"It's hard for me to imagine leaving him," she says. "Just not being with him all day, leaving him with a virtual stranger. And then that's it till, you know, I retire. It's kind of crazy to think about it."

Across the border in Vancouver, British Columbia, Suzanne Dobson is back at work after 14 months of paid maternity leave.

"It was great," she says. "I was still making pretty good money for being at home."

Across the ocean, in Sweden, Magnus Larsson is looking forward to splitting 16 months of parental leave at 80 percent pay with his girlfriend. They are expecting their first baby in a week.

That's the beginning of an interesting article by Peter Svensson about the lack of paid maternity leave in the United States. The article points out that the U.S. is one of only two industrialized nations to not provide paid maternity leave at the national level.

This isn't the only way the U.S. is crushing its work force. In the United States, a 40 hour week is standard for most full time workers. But not in Europe. France, for instance, adopted a 35 hour work week in 2000. And the French aren't the only ones slacking. Working time is gradually decreasing all across Europe. That's also just the work week. Europeans on average also receive 4-6 weeks of vacation a year. And that's not after several years of service. That's just for showing up.

Let's say that the average worker in the States works 50 weeks a year. If you work 50 weeks a year at 40 hours per week, you're working 2,000 hours a year.

Then let's say that the average worker in Europe works 47 weeks a year. If you work 47 weeks a year at 35 hours per week, you're working 1,645 hours a year.

We're generalising, of course. These numbers probably apply to Western Europe far more than they do to Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, in this scenario the average European works 355 hours less per year than the average U.S. worker.

That's fine, I guess. At least it's worth it for our free health care. Oh wait. No, we don't get that either.

I guess what I find perplexing is that so many in this country are concerned with family values. Or at least they say they are. At least on some level of superficial morality. But really, how much better would life be in this country if every worker had 355 more hours to spend with their spouses and families? How much better would kids turn out if their parents had several more weeks worth of time to spend with them each year?

But in this country we don't concern ourselves with systematic evil. Gays make much better scapegoats.

(Thanks to Mystifer for the link to the Svensson piece.)

Comments on "All Work And No Play"


Blogger myste said ... (8/04/2005 02:15:00 PM) : 

"But really, how much better would life be in this country if every worker had 355 more hours to spend with their spouses and families?"

not only that but in an economy that is hard up for jobs, think about how many jobs would be created to make up the difference of working hours. unemployment would go down, productivity would remain the same, and parents would have more time with their children. what a win win situation!


Blogger hipchickmamma said ... (8/04/2005 05:13:00 PM) : 

hmmm...and i would guess their productivity is much better as well. it amazes me how with our students, our work study after study has been conducted and shown that frequent rest--whether in the form of an afternoon break, recess, vacation, etc actually increases productivity and quality of work. but nope--we've got the protestant work ethic trying to kill us instead. btw--great blog!


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said ... (12/15/2005 07:26:00 PM) : 

Free health care would be great if it was true. I hope our health care system can be improved to provide coverage for many.


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