I’ve heard that in the past, people believed that workdays would shorten across the board and jobs would become more and more desirable on average. Are there any studies or statistics that support (or go against) this idea? I’d be curious to know if we’re moving towards a more desirable job culture as a whole, even in baby steps.
Modern industrial unions fought for shorter work days starting in the 19th century. The work week went from 48 hours to 5 1/2 days to 40 hours. During the Depression a number of people suggested going to 30 hour weeks in order to spread the work to more workers to give them at least some income. A few companies did in fact do this but it was never widespread.
WWII killed the concept, even for companies that had adopted it, because there was full employment for everybody who could work and there were never enough hours in the week to get all the war materials made.
After the war, large corporations and unions made peace after decades of enormous unrest. The 40-hour work week became standard for both blue collar and white collar workers.
Some pundits talked about a push-button future in which workers would have lots of leisure and jobs would only take up a few hours a day. On The Jetsons, George supposedly worked only one or two hours a day, depending on which episode you watch. But somehow he left in the morning before his kids went to school and came home in the evening rush hour when they were already home. Go figure.
Pundits are always wrong about everything, and they were wrong about the two-hour day. It’s hard to know how many people took the notion seriously. Real workers didn’t, as far as I can tell. It was a silly utopian notion akin to flying cars. The Future would be Fun! Yeah, sure.
I don’t know how you would define a desirable job in the first place. It’s true that far fewer people work at backbreaking labor in horrible conditions, as they did a century ago, at least in the western world, but that was largely gone by the 1950s so there’s nothing especially new about the concept. Jobs are just jobs. Always have been.
What makes a job desirable?
Because of fear of lawsuits, employers take ergonomics more seriously than in the past. Which is a good thing. Aside from that, I don’t know if jobs are more desirable now than in the past.
Some tech companies try to make work desirable. They have lots of perks like flex time, daycare, a game room, freedom to work on independent projects, etc. But I do not think those things apply across the board.
Due to globalization employers probably do not feel compelled to make jobs desirable, there is someone in the third world who will do it even it is more physically and mentally miserable (plus for less money).
Automation has taken out the most repetitive jobs, which can be very mind numbing. Ergonomics has made job injuries less common (as has OSHA). But I don’t think employers have done much to make jobs less boring, mundate, isolating, stressful, etc.
It is not in employers’ interests (generally speaking) to employ more workers at shorter hours, certainly not if you are going to pay them all enough to live reasonably comfortably on. The only way that you will get significantly improved working conditions is if workers and would-be workers attain significant power, either at the government level, politically, or through strong unions. However, unions have been weak and getting weaker in most industrial countries for a long time now, and are especially weak in the USA. What is more, they are hardly likely to gain any more power in an economy where there are always a lot of people unemployed and desperate for work (as has been the case for several decades).
The trend, especially in the USA, is toward fewer people working, in worsening conditions.
When you compare the US to Europe it is very big contrast.It is hard for people in Europe to believe Americans work 10 or 12 hour shifts. And lucky to get one week vacation in year!!
If you have 8 hour job now you are lucky.If you get two week vacation in year!! You are lucky.
The main problem is this recession is cover story.The US really have been in 20 year recession!! All Clinton did was put a bandaid on it , by putting in retail job and walmart type jobs that bubble exploded.What Bush did was housing and construction bubble.And Obama ideas from FDR called state run work brigade.Doing roads , bridges , Dams ,utilities and new power lines and cable so on. Sounds nice !! But the problem is what happens when all this work is done? Yes other bubble.
The problem is Clinton ,Bush and Obama will not come out and tell you what the real problem is !! Well they push their globalization agenda well the 1% gets more profits by industry and manufacture that go to China and Indea.
sweat209, let’s refrain from political commentary in General Questions. No warning issued, but let’s stick to the basic topic.
General Questions Moderator
Could you provide a link (or at least the logic of) this statement? Because my understanding is exactly the opposite, at least for jobs that don’t require loads of specialized training or familiarization.
You’re right that very low level jobs that require minimal training can be run as if employees are interchangeable parts. A Wal-mart or McDonalds can have 100% turnover in a year.
That’s not an efficient model, though. Most companies find that the training costs as well as the inefficiencies that result from poorly trained employees are prohibitively expensive. For all those jobs, the best strategy is to employ the fewest number of people and work them the maximum number of hours. That’s a major reason that mandatory overtime laws were written. That reduces employer incentives to run employees into the ground, and rewards employees who truly want to work the extra hours. The size of the employer also makes a huge difference. Adding an employee adds huge costs when you only have 1, significant costs if you have 10, and negligible costs if you have 1000.
No magic formula exists for the right balance between number of employees and hours workers. Each job situation is different. So you’re both right.
I really don’t understand the OP. Jobs are always desirable to people who need money. If I don’t need money, then even a 2-hour workweek will not make the job desirable.