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

Kai Ryssdal Oct 19, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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

Kai Ryssdal Oct 19, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.