Will a Shorter Work Week Lead to More Productivity

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America has been a front runner in the labor market for so many years. Unfortunately that is not the case in most recent years. America’s labor market has been downsizing while on the contrary, other countries labor market has been increasing. One economy that has been thriving is in the country of Japan. Since their destruction after the war, Japan has rebuilt their labor market into one of the top labor fields around the world. Unlike any other country, the Japanese utilize part time workers as their driving force. By using part time workers the Japanese are able to keep labor hours down, which decrease the cost of the good, which in essence allows for goods to be more affordable. Cheaper goods allow for more goods to be wanted and more money into the economy. Although Japan has capitalized on a shorter work week to lead to more production, the United States has failed to take on this view. Many studies support this view, but the United States is reluctant to change their ways.

Have you ever felt as if there were not enough hours in a day? This is a feeling I am sure everyone has had at one time or another. Sadly, Americans seem to deal with this problem more than other countries. With Americans usually working what they consider a normal work day, being nine to five o’clock, they often find themselves overextending themselves to include overtime hours. According to Richard Pyle, Americans work an average of 35.6 million overtime hours a week (Pyle, 1977). That is an astounding amount of time focused on just work. No wonder why there is not enough time in our day to get things done! Americans are too busy working to do anything else. Now what if I were to say that all of these extra hours are unneeded? Instead of spending all of the day at work you could be doing other leisurely things you enjoy instead such as vacation or quality family time. There are a plethora of studies and research done to show that having a shorter work week could lead to more production in the United States. According to the article “The Japanese Worker-What Makes Him Tick”, the Japanese has lower amounts of labor hours and a higher amount of quality items being sold around the world (Whitehill, 1961). After many articles published stating the same thing, economists decided to explore this phenomenon a little further. The economists created a group called the National Recovery Administration or NRA, to carry out their own study to see if this phenomenon could actually hold true.

A Typical American Workday

In the United States today people who usually work for a living have a fulltime job. A full time job entails a person to work forty hours or more a week. Previously stated in the article, Performance Measures for a Corporate Fitness Program, Americans work an average of 35.6 million overtime hours a week (Pyle, 1977). Overtime is defined as “working time in excess of a standard day, week, or period” (Miriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, 2007). The 35.6 million hours a week could translate into another 900,000 forty-hour per week jobs (Pyle, 1977). Instead of hiring more employees and helping out our economy, the United States would rather make the currently employed work a ridiculous amount of time. Employed Americans often find themselves stressed with their companies desire for overtime work that they compromise leisurely activities to essentially keep their job.

Japanese View of Labor
Japan’s History of Employment

Before World War II, “Japan was once one of the lowest economically driven countries in the world.” (Mincer, 1988). After the war was over Japan was in complete turmoil (Hitchner, 1986). Employment in Japan was scarce. According to the article a majority of their land was bombed, which left for almost no resources to be allocated towards profit (Hitchner, 1986). After Japan started rebuilding they decided to change the structure of their labor...
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