Photo: Flickr – wanderingz
Back in 1965 a Senate subcommittee predicted that we’d enjoy 2-hour work weeks by the year 2000. The driving force was to be a computer revolution that would keep production constant without us having to work for it.They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Activists David Batker and John de Graaf explain what happened instead, in What’s the Economy for, Anyway: Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness (via Bloomberg):
By the mid-1970s, and especially after 1980, median wages weren’t keeping pace with increases in our capacity to produce. But flattening incomes didn’t derail the consumption train. Americans continued to buy more, in part by going deeper into debt, by having more members of the family enter the workforce and by working additional overtime. By the boom times of the late 1990s, Americans worked more than the notoriously workaholic Japanese…
In 1991, the average American worker put in 163 more hours on the job than in 1973, according to the sociologist Juliet Schor, the author of “The Overworked American.” Since many more families had two parents working, the increase in annual working hours per family was much higher — 500 to 700 hours more than in the ’70s.
In 1965, Congress could look back at a history of successful labour reform, and looked forward to a future of increasingly helpful computer technology, in making their prediction. But the experts failed to take into consideration our propensity for wanting more stuff — even at the expense of our leisure time, health, and retirement.
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