In Search of a Shorter Workweek

You say you’re looking for a job where the workweek is short and work/life balance is cherished?

Well, if you’re reading this at an IP address in the United States, then you may need to pack a suitcase in addition to a briefcase in order to find a job that fits that description, according to this recent post on Quartz:

Reducing the workweek has long been deliberate public policy in a number of European countries, including France, the Netherlands, and Germany. It also seems to be a rule of thumb that technological leaps come with shorter working hours. This happened dramatically in the U.S. a century ago—the standard workweek dropped to about 40 hours by the 1930s, from more than 60 in the 1870s. More recently, South Korea reduced its average workweek to 41 hours from 48 between 2000 and 2014.

There is, of course, variation in workweek hours among all rich countries, the Quartz piece notes. In fact, Germans work about 26 hours per week, according to numbers from the Organisation for EconomicCo-operation and Development, while the Japanese work 33 hours on average.

Meanwhile, “Americans spent around 34 hours per week at work, longer than any of the most technologically advanced OECD nations except Ireland.”

Many of us Americans would argue we already spend MORE than 34 hours at work per week, so why hasn’t the United States followed Europe’s lead?

For one, cultural values. America prides itself on a certain ambition that encourages long hours; to Americans this might make French workers seem lazy, while to Europeans it might seem that America is materialistic and status-obsessed.


America’s unions are also far weaker than Europe’s, making it difficult for low-earning workers to demand a bigger share of the country’s economic pie, whether that manifests as cash or time off.

Just another something to think about while you’re computing how many more hours you need to log before your next weekend begins.