“The decline of work is a human tragedy”

by Ryan Streeter on August 11, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

[I]n 1979, the worst-paid 20 percent of workers were more likely to put in long work hours than the top 20 percent; by 2006, the top 20 percent were twice as likely to work long hours than the bottom 20 percent.

That’s from a study by Peter Kuhn and Fernando Lozano. The study finds similar results when comparing people with higher and lower levels of education.

Tino Sanandaji comments on the phenomenon in this American article:

The reversal in working time is a major and little discussed shift in the labor market. The historical view of inequality is one where the poor masses toiled in the field or factories, while rich landowners or rentiers had the luxury not to work. Today we face a very different situation. Increasing numbers of the poor and lower skilled workers are excluded from the labor market.

Sanandaji says this may matter little if we look at the economy purely in terms of per capita GDP, but viewed in terms of the importance of work to personal wellbeing, it is a “tragedy.”