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Is the 15-hour work week closer than we think?

Why the 15-hour work week predicted by economist John Maynard Keynes hasn't come to pass -- yet.

You don't work as hard as you say you do, according to the U.S. Labor Department. They just released a study that found the typical worker claims to work 40 hours a week -- while actually working around 37.

But either way, your work week is still a lot longer than the 15-hour work week that economist John Maynard Keynes predicted we'd all be working by now.

So what happened?

Prof. John Quiggin's an economist at Queensland University in Brisbane Australia and author of "Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us." He looked into the 15-hour work week and found that part of the problem lies in an increase in consumption that Keynes hadn't predicted.

Keynes predicted that new technologies would allow workers to become more productive. This would mean they wouldn't have to work as many hours and could devote more time to leisure. Using an equation, he found that eventually, people would be able to work about 15 hours a week and still maintain their standard of living.

But Quiggin says Keynes didn't predict the rise in consumption. And then again, Keynes certainly didn't predict "time wasters" like weeding through spam emails or updating Facebook at work.

Then again, maybe we put too much emphasis on "hard work."

"It turns out that a lot of the things that are most valuable really didn't come from hard work aimed at making money," says Quiggins. "For example, if you look at the Internet, it really...arose because university professors like to chat to each other."

But if your job is something you love or would do anyway, you're probably okay not working a 15-hour work week. You tell us.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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