The American exception

AMERICANS LIKE to work hard whereas Europeans prefer a more leisurely life. That is the widely held perception of the continental divide in business culture. But it has not always been the case; 40 years ago, there was precious little difference between the two.

In his new book, “Spending Time: The Most Valuable Resource”, Daniel Hamermesh, an economist, examines how work and leisure patterns in America differ from those in the rest of the developed world. In the first half of the 20th century the American working week fell sharply from nearly 60 hours to around 40. By 1979 the average worker in America put in around 38.2 hours a week, similar to the number in Europe.

That is where the figures started to diverge. For a while, the American workweek got longer, reaching 39.4 hours in 2000, before falling back to 38.6 in 2016. The main difference, however, is holidays. In the 1980s Europeans began to take more annual leave but Americans did not. Over the year as a whole, Americans average 34 hours a week, six more than the French and eight more than the Germans.

What explains this gap? Some point to cultural factors but, as Mr Hamermesh points out, it is hard to see why American culture suddenly diverged from that of the rest of the world in the past 40 years. Others point to lower taxes, which raise the value of...

via Business Feeds

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