Working in America
Where Every Day is Tuesday
By Contributing Writer Donna Malloy
If I had my choice of where to work in the world today, it would probably be the Papua province of Indonesia. In Papua, as a member of the Kapauku tribe, I would be expected to work only three days per week; it is considered bad luck to work two consecutive days.
In America, the industrial revolution made it possible for laborers to work year-round, regardless of the weather and what time the sunset. For the first time, artificial lighting of factories extended work hours at industrial sites to from twelve to sixteen hour work days, six to seven days per week. Factory owners financially motivated to realize a maximum return on their capital investment now demanded long hours of their employees.
In contrast, in 1926 automobile manufacturer Henry Ford came along with his one color Model T-Ford and a five day, eight hour work week for his employees. Ford's philosophy was not based on humanitarian reasons; rather it was based on the notion that workers needed more leisure time in order to purchase and thus consume products to keep the economy stimulated.
Early humans such as the Kung Bushmen tribe were hunters and gatherers. It was estimated that a Kung Bushmen worked approximately 15 hours a week sustaining his existence. Some anthropologists have noted that primitive man enjoyed more free time than is available in more complex societies.
During the twentieth century, workweek hours in America declined by approximately half, attributed to rising wages as a result of renewed economic growth. After World War II, in most industrialized countries, the workweek continued to steadily drop to 40 hours per week. Once you heard the whistle blow, your work was finished for the day.
Today that's all changed. Thanks to modern technology, the lines between work and play have now become blurred. According to Boston College economist Juliet Schor, author of The Overworked American: "In recessions, there will be fewer people working, but the workers who remain have to work longer hours to retain their jobs."
Mattathias Schwarz, in his "The Future of Work," explains the increased workweek phenomenon this way: "Say goodbye to the classic 40-hour workweek. The sputtering economy, the decline of manufacturing and the ubiquitous BlackBerry are remaking 9 to 5 into something with unpredictable hours and fuzzier borders."
Although the reward for working longer hours results in the accumulation of more stuff, it also comes at a price; our health. Eventually, we will experience a leisure deficit and our family will no longer enjoy quality time with us because we won't have any time or anything to give.
"Every day is Tuesday" is a phrase used by workers who work Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; in other words every day of the week. For them, yesterday became today and today becomes tomorrow; there is no distinction of time in between.
But some nations, such as France, have imposed a national 35-hour workweek. One of France's objectives was to take advantage of improvements in productivity of modern society in order to give workers some more personal time in order to enhance their quality of life.
Maybe old Henry Ford wasn't that far off after all.
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