[lbo-talk] Workers Are on the Job More Hours over the Course of the year

James Heartfield Heartfield at blueyonder.co.uk
Tue May 15 00:42:00 PDT 2007

Miles Jackson on Monday:

"I still insist that households/families are working more wage labor hours than they were in the 1960s. The data that James provides obscure this fact by treating the individual worker as the unit of analysis."

Pardon me, but I don't think that I obscured the position of families by introducing the individual worker as the unit of analysis.

That was Miles, when he wrote on Sunday:

"In the U. S., it's an irrefutable fact that the average worker is working far, far more than the average worker in previous generations"

Which, far from being an irrefutable fact, is wrong.

That family units are giving up more time to capital is something I wrote about in 2001, in Phil Ferguson's magazine Revolution:

"North American and European workforces all exhibit the same trend towards a more feminised workforce, related to the growth in service industries, decline of manufacturing and increase in part-time work. ...Dual income families yield up as much as twice the surplus labour without incurring twice the cost (Capital, Ch.15, sec. 3a)."

However, the evidence from Time Use studies, in the UK as in America, is that leisure time has not been squeezed so much, and in fact the extension in paid work has largely been achieved by a corresponding reduction in unpaid domestic work. I can tell you that in the UK, the government pursued an energetic policy of getting single mothers off welfare and into work, by extending subsidised nursery provision (a reform which, whatever its motives, I have to say was a big advantage for me). The socialisation - whether through public provision or more often through private enterprise - of tasks that were formerly part of unpaid domestic work, such as preparing meals, caring for pre-school children, cleaning homes is part of the change that makes the recruitment of women workers easier for business.

No doubt Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Cornel West have a point when they say that families are under attack and the increase in absent parents has an impact on child development (though they mix their social democratic protest with some conservative social views).

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