This report from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth looks at the rising number of employees working long hours - sometimes earning high salaries or overtime pay, but too often not - and the implications for individuals, families, businesses and the US economy.
When economists and policymakers talk about good jobs, they tend to focus on issues of pay and benefits, and the ability to provide for one’s family. Yet even among those with so-called good jobs, an array of research and media stories tell of an increasing number of workers—men and women alike—who are frazzled and stressed as they try to manage outside demands such as school, community obligations, children, aging parents, and their own health while still succeeding at jobs characterised by long hours and little flexibility.
While the mainstream discussion surrounding overwork tends to focus primarily on high-income, white-collar workers, long hours are now common across a variety of occupations, with consequences for families and the economy that go beyond a few bleary-eyed mornings. The media often frames overwork as a personal choice cured by better organisation, creative time management, or more caffeine. But overwork is not simply a personal problem; it’s an economic issue, which this report will explore. On the firm side of the ledger, those who work long workweeks do not necessarily produce the gains in output that we assume. As we lay out, research shows that long hours are associated with declining gains in productivity. Further, overwork lowers demand for other workers, meaning there are fewer jobs to go around.