This is NOT Progress: Americans Now Think 40 hrs is “Part-Time”

This is definitely NOT the direction we want to be heading. From Business Insider:

Americans consider a 40-hour work week as “part time” in most professional jobs and as a sign of a stagnant career, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress.

Just as income inequality grows, so does the divide between those who have too much work, and those who have too little. We are a nation divided into the overemployed and the underemployed – a result fueled by the structure of our workplaces, our cultural attitudes about work, and increasing economic insecurity that pressures everyone to try to get ahead and stay ahead no matter what it takes.
And look at the jump the number of middle income and professional women working over 50 hours a week (3.4 > 8.3% and 6.1 > 14.4%), that’s the result of families increasing the number of hours the woman works in an attempt to make up for increasing fixed costs and stagnant wages for men.
On both ends of the income scale, we’re at the breaking point.


Filed under Career-Life Fit, Economy, Fatherhood, Motherhood, News & Commentary, Workplace and Employment

2 responses to “This is NOT Progress: Americans Now Think 40 hrs is “Part-Time”

  1. mike

    Hi Kristin. Unfortunately I’m not convinced we’re anywhere near our breaking point, at least not as a society (ie policy-wise). In fact, perhaps even the opposite: any attempt to limit the ‘freedom’ of the marketplace to determine ‘equilibrium’ is now seen as the political bad guy (think of how unions are seen today).
    I also expect the numbers in that graph are a function of the change in the percentage of women in the workforce, especially in positions of more importance. In fact, that report seems to also indicate that the percentage of ‘stay at home moms’ has increased at lower income levels, but decreased at middle and upper ones (where I expect longer hours are more implicit in the job).

    • Hi Mike –

      I think you are right that society may not be at the breaking point, but families are. I wonder what level of collapse families have to go through beyond what is already happening to force any policy changes – they are already experience record number of bankruptcies (even before the recession) and record number of hours worked by household.

      Also, yes, the numbers on women increase in part because of more women in the workforce. And that movement is in part a reflection of the need for families to add an income just to maintain the status quo in terms of purchasing power as costs have gone up. It is also historically true that lower income levels have more mothers that are not employed – one reason being that it is not worth it for them to work when they factor wages earned against childcare costs and the low-quality of childcare available at what they can pay. Our WWII era income tax policy effectively penalizes them for working. (See Tax Day Question: Can I Make Enough to Pay for Childcare?)

      One area of hope I see is that I think there will be additional pressure on workplaces as Boomers want to scale back but not retire completely. Perhaps the combined pressures of today’s families and Boomer’s shifting work patterns will help shift the workplace culture and policies.


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