Thursday, June 19, 2008

Demise of the 35-hour Work Week

France's conservative government adopted a plan today that would allow companies and employees to get around 35-hour workweek rules that critics say has restricted economic growth. Rail workers, teachers and other public servants went on strike this week and union activists marched in protests nationwide to voice opposition to the plan. (Associated Press)

Geez! wish I could get by on a just a 35 hour work-week!

My work-weeks have been in the 50-55 hour range on average and have crept up into the 70-80 hour range from time to time.

The 50 hour work-week would be much more manageable if it included that French tradition of the two-hour lunch, or better yet the "siesta" time that it common throughout the Mediterranean especially in Greece, Italy and Spain.

A year ago France implemented the beginning of their work-week reform by instigating "tax-free" overtime incentive to workers that voluntarily agreed to work over the 35 hour limit.

When I was a corporate-dog I would have settled for just getting paid for the overtime hours I worked. How much better if that overtime pay had been tax-exempt!

With the exception of the United Kingdom, Western Europe and Scandinavian workers have a work-week that is up to a third shorter than in North America. On top of their shorter hours, workers in these countries, and also the United Kingdom, enjoy from 5-8 weeks of vacation time, or holiday time as they call it. It is claimed that Paris is closed in August, as everyone has left town on holiday and is at the beach!

Sociologists have presented that a person working 60 hours per week could simply mean they are enthusiastic about their job. But, if long work-weeks become the societal norm, then these long hours are not voluntary, and represent a dearth of leisure time and possibly threaten the general public health of a nation.

How embarrassing that the world's lone remaining Super-Power is overworked, underpaid, and while having the finest healthcare one can afford to get sick! Has America lost sight of family and leisure pursuits through chasing the almighty dollar and working too long of hours?

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