The Great Speedup

Americans — those who still have jobs, anyway — are working harder than ever these days. More hours, more weekend email check-ins, and less vacation than just about anyone else in the world. Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein write about all of this, including the vacation part, in “All Work and No Pay: The Great Speedup”:

European companies face the same pressures that ours do—yet in Germany’s vigorous economy, for example, six weeks of vacation are de rigueur, weekend work is a last resort, and companies’ response to a downturn is not to fire everyone, but to institute Kurzarbeit — temporarily reducing hours and snapping back when things start looking up. Sure, they lag ever so slightly behind us in productivity. But ask yourself: Who does our No. 1 spot benefit?

A big part of this is cultural. Mother Jones, no capitalist taskmasters they, have a pretty generous vacation policy. And yet, I almost never take vacation anyway. I’ve been brainwashed! (Until Wednesday, that is, when I’m taking a week off.) The map below shows this starkly: the United States is virtually alone in not mandating any annual time off for employees, right along with such economic luminaries as Burma, Guyana, and Nepal. More charts on American overwork here.

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