Re: Work Too Much

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Sat Sep 01 2001 - 02:59:22 MDT

On Fri, Aug 31, 2001 at 10:37:19PM -0700, Olga Bourlin wrote:
> U.S. workers have increased their substantial lead over Japan and
>all other industrial nations in the number of hours worked each year,
>according to a report issued yesterday by the International Labor
>Organization. It found that Americans added nearly a full week to their
>work year during the 1990s. They worked 1,979 hours on average last year
>-- that's 49 1/2 weeks.
> That's 137 more hours or 3 1/2 weeks more per year than Japanese
>workers, 260 hours (about 6 1/2 weeks) more per year than British
>workers and 499 hours (12 1/2 weeks) more per year than German workers,
>the report said.

Deeply questionable figures. Let's take 50 working weeks in the year,
and 5 days per week; we get 250 working days. 1979 hours a year then
gives us an average 7.9 hours per working day.

Now let's look at the UK figures. 1979 - 260 = 1719. 1719/250 = 6.87
working hours per day, or (6.87 x 5) an average 34.4 hour working


Official figures in the UK suggest the average working week has been
creeping up, to more like 45 hours. (We keep getting bombarded with
earnest op-ed news features about it, along with hand-wringing about
workplace stress and the way people make more errors when they work more
than 44 hours a week.)

So either the British are deeply, pathologically, ill -- taking 25% of
their worktime off sick -- or these figures are Just Plain Wrong.

Given that the whole spin of the article eerily mirrors the aren't-we-
working-hard articles published in the UK, I suspect we're being
subjected to dubious figures on all fronts.

-- Charlie (who, being self-employed as a writer, can't tell
            whether he works 80 hours a week or 20 hours a week;
            it all depends on whether you count posting on the
            extropians list as "work", but as he's gotten whole
            novellas out of ideas he picked up here ...)

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