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Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:00 AM

Krugman: Europeans have steadily reduced working hours as labor force participation rises

Yglesias asks, if the middle class is under pressure, what exactly is it that ordinary American families have less of (or rather, had less of before the Great Recession struck). After all, people do seem to have more stuff.

But one important answer is, they have less time ó specifically less family time.



Now, you might be tempted to say that something like this was bound to happen along with social changes that led to more women in the paid working force. But the sharp increase in total hours worked per family didnít have to happen; more female labor force participation could have been offset by shorter working hours. In fact, thatís exactly what did happen in Europe; at this point major European nations, France in particular, have fully matched the US in employment rates for both male and female prime-age adults:

So what we have is a situation in which American families have more stuff, but they have managed to afford that stuff only by being two-income families, with ever less family time ó unlike their European counterparts, who have gained in shorter hours and vacations what they lost in stay-at-home wives.

Itís not hard to think of reasons for this divergence; many of them come down to sharply rising inequality and the rat race this inequality creates.
More on that in later posts.



http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/what-we-have-less-of/

Another problem of American families caused by our stark income inequality as compared to that in Europe - less family time.

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Reply Krugman: Europeans have steadily reduced working hours as labor force participation rises (Original post)
pampango Jan 2013 OP
xchrom Jan 2013 #1
ProSense Jan 2013 #2
lunatica Jan 2013 #3
Wednesdays Jan 2013 #6
lunatica Jan 2013 #10
Yavin4 Jan 2013 #14
lunatica Jan 2013 #18
Yavin4 Jan 2013 #22
eridani Jan 2013 #4
coldbeer Jan 2013 #5
Wednesdays Jan 2013 #7
Champion Jack Jan 2013 #8
Puzzledtraveller Jan 2013 #15
pampango Jan 2013 #17
lunatica Jan 2013 #19
pampango Jan 2013 #21
LWolf Jan 2013 #9
Doctor_J Jan 2013 #11
Loudestlib Jan 2013 #12
AllyCat Jan 2013 #13
bhikkhu Jan 2013 #16
lunatica Jan 2013 #20

Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:02 AM

1. du rec. nt

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:06 AM

2. True, but

most Americans also have less income, which has been on the decline for decades, especially for low-income Americans.

A Thanksgiving Reminder That America Alone Doesnít Guarantee Time Off For Vacations Or Holidays
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10021867711

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:10 AM

3. I was talking about this to a friend recently

Wondering why we don't go to a 4 work day week in this country. Do we really need that much more productivity than we did before the computer, fax and scanning devices were introduced? It seemed that everyone was pretty happy with productivity before that. Sure it took a little longer to send documents via mail rather than faxing or scanning them, but if we went to a 4 word day week we would still be far more productive, or perhaps just faster about it. And if we all worked a maximum of 4 days and the companies wanted to stay open 7 days, then hire more people and share the job. They would have happier workers who would probably do as much work as people today who work 5 days. Just pay a living wage which ought to be doable since there's a high level of productivity anyway.

tweek it and it could work.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:13 AM

6. Sure, they'll gladly give us a 4 day work week!

Along with a 20% reduction in pay. Oh, and no benefits 'cause you're not working full time anymore, bud.
See how that works?

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Response to Wednesdays (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:57 AM

10. Well, I did say tweek it didn't I?

It's quite possible we could get Universal Health Care some time in the future, in which case no one gives a shit whether the company gives benefits or not because we would already have them. And the 20% reduction in pay? How about making that against the law.

Anything can happen. One has to believe that just to keep fighting in this war.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 10:23 AM

14. I had that "hire more people" fight with my former boss

who wanted literally 24/7 coverage with no OT, which meant that exempt employees had to do the weekend and evening coverages.

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Response to Yavin4 (Reply #14)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:53 AM

18. That's one reason why I belong to a union

I see it this way. There's a reason we have unions. There are some decent employers who treat their employees well, but unfortunately there are more employers who are stopped from being as abusive as they can be by laws, and by unions. If those laws go away or as unions lose power you see that abuse emerging.

The good thing is they're so abusive that eventually the only way to fight back is to unionize.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #18)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 05:34 PM

22. I Hear You Loud and Clear

In my situation, my former employer was breaking NY state labor laws regarding OT. Exempt employees are not supposed to work OT.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:39 AM

4. When you have fewer and fewer people making more and more stuff--

--you just can't tell the displaced people that they can't have any more stuff unless you want permanent economic stagnation. Oh, wait....

Shorter work hours for all would reverse this in short order.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:07 AM

5. I think we should have less working hours ...

and more people working!

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Response to coldbeer (Reply #5)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:17 AM

7. But that would cut into corporate PROFITS


Think of the shareholders!

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Response to Wednesdays (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:43 AM

8. Bingo!

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Response to Wednesdays (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 10:52 AM

15. No it won't, that will cut into the workers paychecks

the corporate heads aren't going to suffere any loss. Reduced hours will not come with the same pay.

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Response to Puzzledtraveller (Reply #15)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 01:51 PM

17. You're right. It would come out of workers' paychecks in the US. In Europe, by contrast,

workers have reduced the number of hours they work but maintained/improved their standard of living.

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Response to pampango (Reply #17)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:57 AM

19. Proof that it can be done and therefore if we want it

we can make it happen. How did it happen in Europe? Did the government one day just decide to do it all by themselves? Or did the people actually make it happen? And how did they do that? Probably by voting for parties that are truly representative of their constituency. I also remember various times when the French had some pretty major pubic riots.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #19)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 09:28 AM

21. Well said. +1 n/t

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:53 AM

9. Hmmm.

I wonder if more family time would result in less stress-related mental health issues, and more opportunity to address mental health issues sooner and more vigorously.

Shorter working hours? I'd be so much healthier and happier.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 09:17 AM

11. Which is easy to do when UHC is available

Seriously, how many Americans cling to their jobs because they have to have health insurance? Even shitty jobs? the US health insurance racket might be the biggest rip-off ever perpetrated.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 09:19 AM

12. Wages

We need to do something about the wages being paid to people. With the destruction of the Unions I don't know who is going to push for this?

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 10:08 AM

13. Imagine a 4 day work week with UHC.

I could actually afford a pay reduction with UHC. My employer would not be screwing us over trying to get us to pay more for a cheaper insurance plan that offers less actual health care (yes, that's what is happening right now). One day a week, every parent would have a day that they could pick up the kids from school and do something fun, like visit a museum or go to the park. There would be one day you did not have to use your precious "earned time" just to go to the doctor. Happier workers, healthier Americans, more productive people, and greater employment.

Nah. Corporate America would never tolerate that. We must work until we die for them to be happy, and the less they pay us to do it, the better off they will be.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 11:14 AM

16. That's because all they have left is crappy part-time jobs!

...kidding, of course.

Krugman makes a very good point, which has been a good point for a very long time: most of our employment problem here has to do with low wages. In a normal household, you shouldn't have to have every adult working for wages to keep the household intact. There are plenty of valuable roles in society that don't involve "working for wages", and in the US they are squeezed to the bone. "Life" is a lesser thing here, and society suffers.

The other thing about that is that the regular and consistent chime about there being "no jobs" and "only crappy jobs" is hardly true - its just that the 146 million or so jobs that we do have don't pay as well as they should and don't allow people anywhere near the freedom that they should. Or that's a bigger and more entrenched problem, imho.

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Response to bhikkhu (Reply #16)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 07:04 AM

20. It's ironic that

the minimum wage laws were first implemented to protect women and children workers from being paid too little. I'm sure employers raged with raised fists at the injustice of that back then. Now they cling to it for dear life and rage at even a meager increase.

It leaves a bitter taste doesn't it?

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