July 12, 2004
American workers have been clocking more and more hours on the job, and they now work more hours than workers do in any other industrialized country do. Workers are also clocking more overtime hours. Working 40 hours a week or more is simply unhealthy. So why do it? From across America there comes in resounding cry of "Because I have to!" Actually, you do not. It is certainly easy to understand why some may feel they are working because they "have to." Nevertheless, if you look at those who feel forced to work 40 or more hours a week, you will probably find a list of expenses that looks something like this:
Payments on one or more vehicles.
Auto insurance for one or more vehicles.
One or more children.
Credit card debt on one or more cards
More monthly bills than are necessary.
(More monthly bills than should be legal.)
If they're fortunate, "student loans to pay off.
Weekly tributes to the tobacco gods, if they smoke.
Depending on the person, this list could be endless. All of the above are expensive, some immediately, some over time. Therefore, sure, people who have a list like this are likely to be found "manacled" to the 40- to 60-hour work week mentality. However, remember all of these things are choices not requirements. If you consider yourself to be working hard to make ends meet, what you really may be doing is playing a life-long game of catch up with irrational spending habits brought on by impulses to obey social pressures.
The growth in overtime work, while helping to drive the healthy growth in output in the U.S., has unhealthy social costs. It is taking its toll not only on workers,