The Decline of Working

Chris Bertram, in the course of denouncing the uselessness of the mainstream neo-liberal sellout so-called left, observes that “in the anglo-american world at least, associated ideas for shorter hours and job sharing are seen as marginal, impractical and extreme.”

According to the data series available to me average annual hours worked per employed person is in fact trending downward in Anglophone countries:


It’s true that on the European continent average annual hours worked is even lower and there are more explicit anti-work/pro-leisure (or household labor) in place than in Anglophone countries, but the broad trend is cross-national. Over the same period we’ve also seen the share of the population that’s retired go up, and we’re seeing people spend more time in school. Even in the belly of the neoliberal beast, in other words, rising hourly productivity manifests itself in part in people spending less of their lives engaged in market production. I’m also not sure I understand what the objection to “keep the masses happy by improving their living standards” is supposed to be. I, for one, would welcome a higher standard of living!