In the good old days, people had a little something called “time”. They had time to bake cookies and pies, time to make elaborate family dinners, time to read books and newspapers, time for family, time for family vacations, time for friends, time for hobbies, time to play Maj Jong, or Bridge, or Pinnochle, or whatever game was popular in the day. Time was the gift of the post-war boom, when unions were strong, companies felt indebted to their workers, health care and social security were firmly entrenched to fill in the gaps, and most jobs paid enough to buy a home and keep a gas-guzzling V8 on the road.
Then something happened. Some blame globalization, which led to the commodification of workers and the steady outsourcing of high-paying manufacturing jobs. Others blame the decline of unions, facilitated by politicians in the pockets of big business or by the greed of the unions themselves. Still others will go back further and blame the ultra-conservative roots of our western nations, laid by ultra religious types fleeing the growing liberalism and freedoms of Europe in order to create stricter theocracies in the New World.
Whatever happened and whoever’s to blame, we’ve fostered a society where people are overworked, underappreciated, stressed out, constantly rushed, and going slowly insane in lines and behind the wheels of their cars. The crux of it all is time — nobody seems to have enough of it, or know where it all goes. Time equals life, literally and figuratively, and a lack of time is killing us.
According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the average work day has increased from 8.4 hours in 1986 to 8.9 hours in 2005. Over 260 work days that equals about 130 hours or the equivalent of 16.25 additional eight hour work days — mostly unpaid for people on salary.
And that’s just the average. A lot of people are putting in 10 hours a day at their desks, not taking morning breaks, eating lunch where they sit, and making work calls from their cars during their commute.
While some people seem to take a perverse, competitive pleasure in seeing how many hours they can work, most people hate the status quo, and long for the good old days when employees weren’t in constant fear of being laid off, and didn’t feel the need to risk a heart attack, ulcer and/or nervous breakdown to prove their dedication to their jobs. And since more time at work means less time at home, maybe the increase in work hours could also be responsible for the increase in the divorce rate, and all kinds of youth issues like attention deficit disorder, depression, obesity, and brat-iness.