America has been a driving force in the world over the last two centuries, and much of that success is steeped in the abilities and dedication of its citizens. The incredible strides made in many areas of development have come at the price of hard work and long hours but have also yielded great reward. While I believe that Americans do work very hard, I do not believe that they work too hard across the board. Further, mandatory changes to the structure of the work schedules would not be prudent, or even appropriate. Talks about the future of workforce autonomation would further jeopardize the work schedules of able-bodied Americans. Many factors can and should be looked at when assessing the situation of the workforce such as the rate in which Americans work in comparison to other developed nations and laws that regulate those hours. There is no simple one size fits all answer for this concern, and to treat it as if it were, is dangerous and counterproductive.
The average American has a work schedule that can vary greatly depending on the field they are in, as well as the socio-economic circumstances of their life. Americans now work overall 50% more than those in other developed nations like the Germans and French (Prescott, 2). Simultaneously, Americans on average work less than other nations like Japan and South Korea, and these are nations that have not been shown to have less productivity due to higher workloads. This is all steeped in cultural and social factors as well as expectations for success and status. Proponents of decreasing workloads and hours compare the USA with other nations with more lenient work times and fewer days worked per year. In a nation as heterogeneous as America it is difficult to compare work regulations to nations with more relaxation time factored into their work schedule like Sweden or Germany, because they are so homogenous. It is important to understand how this difference effects policies and procedures related to regulating work schedules. When surveyed and researched it was found that those Americans working fewer hours desired more hours of work, while those who worked longer hours of over 40 a week, desired less work and were prone to workplace absenteeism (Reynolds, 89). This is a clear example of how even within the USA workforce their little agreement on what is too much work, and what is not enough work, leaving many, like myself to believe that Americans are not overworked.
The matter of hours worked per week should be left to the individual worker and the employer, with government intervention only to ensure fairness in pay and treatment. It would be ludicrous to have mandatory caps that effected workers across the board since some fields, such as Police Departments and hospitals do not have the ability to practice such extreme measures. It also takes the right to decide how much work is too much work away from individuals who need every penny to survive. In reality the matter of too much work is related to the fact that households are torn between too many obligations but also need to work as many hours as possible to feel financially secure (Jacobs and Green, 442). This can be seen as a problem with pay and cost of living, more than a matter of Americans working too much, or 40 hours a week being too many hours to work. That is the real problem that has no clear answer to it, the matter of the work being done not being matched to the pay needed to survive, therefore forcing the American worker to layer job with job. Taking away their working hours would not only not help, but further aggravate their situations.
The American workforce is one of the brightest and productive in the world and while they work hard, they are not overworked due to their work hours. Americans are overworked due to pay disparity and social factors that would not be helped with reducing work schedules or increasing days off. In fact, attempts to help by offering more social welfare or regulating hours worked will only hurt the nation as a whole and the individual workers by taking their choice in the matter away.
Jacobs, Jerry A., Kathleen, Green. “Who Are the Overworked Americans?” Review of Social Economy. 56.4 (1998): 442-449. Print.
Prescott, Edward C. “Why do Americans Work so Much More than Europeans?” FRB Minneapolis - Quarterly Review. 28.1 (2004): 2-14. Print.
Reynolds, Jeremy. “When Too Much Is Not Enough: Actual and Preferred Work Hours in the United States and Abroad”. Sociological Forum. 19.1 (2004): 89-120. Print.