Are Americans really overworked?

The problem is that US employers have ‘perverse incentives' to overwork current employees rather than to hire additional employees.

Many employees are salary and paid the same whether they work 30 hours, or 40 hours, or 60 hours. Employees that are non salary usually have benefits that have a high fixed cost, but no marginal cost.

Thus economically it always makes sense to say work four employees 53 hours a week, then it does to hire five employees for 40 hours a week. (The extra 12 hours are due to the reduced efficiency of overworking employees)

In most other countries - health care and other benefits are based on income taxes, and so there isn't as a large a fixed cost. So the diminishing returns based on overworking current employees are important and the employer is more likely to hire an additional employee when it makes sense for the work load.

Also some countries have the ‘regular work hours' as much less than 40 hours a week, for instance 35 hours in France. Also some countries don't make salaried employees exempt from overtime.

Also the extra time is often not very productive time - in a standard 40 hour work day, there are many employees who have very little of that as productive time, and with lots of overtime the productivity rate decreases.


I have worked in the IT industry in both India and the US. Trust me. working in the US is nothing more than a joke when compared to India at least as far as IT is concerned.

"Boss calls you at 10 PM on a Saturday to report to work on a Sunday morning. You cut short your mini vacation and go to work. You never explicitly complain about it online or appoint yourself to the position to win a hard-worker award...you are in India".

"You take an hour off from work to pick up your kids, do not even answer your phone on a Sunday, your coworkers hesitate to call you on your cell phone late at night for some official work, liberally complain about how much of a hard worker you are, take sick leaves when your daughter gets a cough, scoot work by 4 on a Friday...you are in the US".


It's a vicious cycle that causes it: Those with skills are in need; they have loans (student, car, house) and because they work so much, their health suffers, they put mileage on the car, their spouse can't work much because who would take care of the kids?, they have to hire landscapers and such to tend to the house, because they are never home, and then they get taxed in the higher bracket.

Those without skills really aren't needed - so they aren't overworked at all. Wait until robots become common.

Those who are overworked need to take a step back and see what they can do to add some sanity to their lives. Each case is different. What I did was start a side business and then look for a day job that was less taxing. I feel bad for those who have to put in 60 hour weeks - I did it for 20 years and missed a lot; and I wasn't able to save a lot of money, either.


The U.S. has a workaholic culture. U.S. employees get less vacation time than workers in any country, except South Korea.

In fact, American companies aren't legally required to give any paid time off at all, whereas it's mandated in many other countries.

Workers in the United Kingdom, for instance, are entitled to 28 paid days off per year (including national holidays). In Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg, and Sweden, employees receive a mandated 25 days of paid leave, and in Brazil workers get 30 paid vacation days each year plus 11 national holidays.


Americans are in the middle on work attitudes. Japanese and Koreans are likely to see long hours as an obligation, even sometimes at the cost of lower productivity in those additional hours. Conversely some Europeans are said to work in a concentrated way during regular work hours.


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