October 14, 2015

THE GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO WASTE 8 HOURS A DAY:

Five Studies: Should We Care If People Aren't Working? (LIVIA GERSHON, 10/14/15, Pacific Standard)

In September, the labor force participation rate--the percentage of Americans ages 16 and up who are either working or looking for a job--hit a 38-year low, at just 62.4 percent. This worries a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. Fewer Americans in the workforce means lower economic growth. It's also likely to leave workers with less leverage to demand higher pay. And the people who aren't working may be losing out on the benefits of mental stimulation and social contact that a job provides.

But, when we look beyond the knee-jerk assumption that more jobs are always better, the decline in work raises deeper questions. Are the things we do for money always the best use of our time? How should we balance the value of paid work compared with leisure time, education, and time spent taking care of our homes and children? If being without a job seems like a catastrophe, is it because we value work or because of the stigma attached to unemployment?

Research on jobs, and joblessness, shows that the decline in the labor force has a lot to do with larger demographic forces. But it's also about tradeoffs in the ways we spend our time. And if not being able to find a job makes people miserable--which it often does--there may be better solutions than simply trying to funnel more and more working hours into the economy.

Posted by at October 14, 2015 8:16 PM
  

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