- For most of human history, leisure time has been a luxury strictly reserved for the ultra-rich. So when it looked like free time was burgeoning due to massive gains in productivity, guess what happened? President Ronald Reagan.
- In 1870 the average American worked about 3100 hours per year — over 60 hours a week. By 1980, when Reagan took office, that figure had fallen to nearly half of that — around 1800 hours. Now, Americans work approximately 260 hours a year more than Europeans do.
- As Reagan launched his all-encompassing assault on labor unions and government benefits for the poor, the century-long march towards the much needed decline in US working hours came to a screeching halt. The battle over leisure time was over.
- Working insanely long hours was suddenly the ultimate status symbol. Mental health professionals began to take note of the alarming rise in what would soon become known as “hustle culture.”
Aki Ito from Insider writes:
“For most of human history, leisure has been a luxury reserved for the ultrarich. The more money you had, the more you could kick back and enjoy the good life. People didn’t work because they enjoyed it, or because it helped them achieve their unique potential, or because it gave meaning and purpose to their lives. They worked because they had to. In 1870, the average American toiled about 3,100 hours a year — more than 60 hours a week — often in backbreaking, lung-blackening factories and mines. If you were lucky, you got two weeks off a year to call your own.
Jump to 1980. The average American work year had plunged to 1,800 hours — almost half what it had been only a century before. Thanks to widespread economic growth and massive gains in productivity, spurred by everything from assembly lines to computers, people were working less and earning more. America seemed on the verge of achieving the free-time utopia envisioned by Benjamin Franklin, who dreamed of a society in which everyone would work only four hours a day and “want and misery” would be banished from the world.
But then something strange happened. In Europe, the average workweek continued to get shorter. But in America, the long, steady march toward a more leisurely future came to an abrupt halt. Today, according to the international economic database Penn World Table, the German work year is an astonishing 380 hours shorter than ours — which means that Germans work almost 10 weeks less than we do every year…”
See full story here.