Having leisure time is now a marker for poverty, not riches


#1

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#2

I assume that this definition of "rich" is upper-middle and lower-upper class folks who actually work for their money...

Edit: after reading TFA, I see that their definition of "rich" seems to be "college graduate".


#3

In the bit of Oxford where I live, the free time that the poor have usually includes a trip to the food bank.


#4

So the economy is completely rigged. If you're technical, smart, and aggressive maybe you have a shot at having a job and medical insurance. That's if you can keep up the pace and increase productivity year to year. You'll never really get the equity you deserve but you can make a living. If you have money you have a license to steal. The government, law enforcement, courts, etc... they do not care about people or the common good. They're in for the power and money and they have abandoned there oath and service completely. This government is a dead wreck.

So here we are, people trying to keep their heads above water. Playing their game by the rules they lay out for us is complete non-starter. What needs to be done is vigorous research and development in new economic and resource acquisition systems and methods outside or at the expense of the current inequitable system. If I was poor or unemployed I would be working full steam trying to find another way. This system certainly isn't working for the majority.

Everything must change yesterday.


#5

I find this fascinating, and I'm glad I read it but I'll immediately reject the form of the argument and remind myself that this is in The Economist, and it has a target demo, (So it also has an agenda)
Here are some choice quotes:

"Overall working hours have fallen over the past century. But the rich have begun to work longer hours than the poor. In 1965 men with a college degree, who tend to be richer, had a bit more leisure time than men who had only completed high school. But by 2005 the college-educated had eight hours less of it a week than the high-school grads."

The value of a college degree is quite different today, in 1965 you didn't get a degree and then "tend to be richer" you were also, almost assured employment, that is, a college degree was a key to a labour market that other's wouldn't have access to. Today a lit major can aspire to be a Barista if he so chooses, but so can a slacker type high school dropout. (Relax, there's a joke in there, somewhere.

"There are fewer really dull jobs, like lift-operating, and more glamorous ones, like fashion design"
There's a LOT to unpack here, instead I'll just say: Huh.

"The occupations in which people are least happy are manual and service jobs requiring little skill"
Are we meant to understand that they are least happy of all BECAUSE the job requires little skill?

"Job satisfaction tends to increase with the prestige of the occupation."
This is true, but I also know this to be a deliberate maneuver by employers to motivate workers into working more without also having to pay more. I'm saying here that where being a manager in the "Downtown Abbey" world had much more prestige as well as much more purchasing power than being a lower ranking employee (I'm making an educated guess here), managers are a dime a dozen in todays world. That is, there used to be a divide, a chasm, between being a mere peon and a manager, where today, that divide has moved now to separate middle managers from CEO types.

"passive leisure” (such as watching TV)"
Ah, this is is leisure.

"by opening a vast world of high-quality and cheap home entertainment, means that low-earners do not need to work as long to enjoy a reasonably satisfying leisure."
Ah yes, so the conclusion of the article is that smarter, richer people work more and watch less TV.

Seems the point of the article is to reinforce this very idea isnt it? That would put it in line with the editorial values of a site called "the Economist"


#6

The article is comparing 'college-educated other workers. Having a bachelor's degree hardly makes one "rich" nowadays. In fact, it seems to be a union card for all but the most casual employment, while it used to mean entree to a much more rarefied tier of work.

But the article does spot a trend that I noticed some time ago: those that are employed full time are generally overworked, and putting in long hours. But their employers still aren't hiring, and often seem to be willing even to pass up on business rather than taking the risk of hiring enough staff to handle the business. So you wind up with relatively few overworked employees and a great many unemployed.


#7

Part of that is workers attempting to reduce risk. When unemployment was low and it was more difficult to find new workers with particular skillsets (without paying a ton of money), employees could work their normal hours and, if work didn't get done, they'd say "I am doing all I can with my normal week, we need more people" and would not get fired for saying so.

For the last 6 years or so, though, telling employers that you couldn't get all the work they assigned to you done was a great way to get laid off, so employees figured that if the choice was between working an extra 5 or 10 hours in order to negate the risk of work not being done, they would rather work more than be out of a job.

Unsurprisingly, once you have workers that accept the extra hours, it's difficult to turn it around. It's also hard for the employees to go back to fewer hours because if you do less work, it can stand out pretty sharply. That all being said, I believe this also has a strong vocation element. Some professions have always worked extra hours, and many are still straight 9-5 (or 8-4 in the midwest) jobs.

All that said, I think connectedness has more impact on this than anything else. High-paying jobs tend to not be manual labor and an employee on vacation can spend 30 minutes catching up on an important project. It may "take away" from the vacation but not everyone is bothered by it.


#8

Yes. It's soothing clickbait for the middlebrow wage slave. I don't doubt that some of the higher ups like this slant as well........... but the "always work" that they are doing "all the time" consists (heavily) of activities that most of us wouldn't ever mistake for work.

Academic studies indicate blue collar employment scarcity is not so novel as this article implies. In the 19th century, standing around looking spry and peppy in order to be hired for the day was not just for Mexicans in front of the Home Depot or retail workers at your favorite supermarket. It was happening out front of every sweatshop on the Lower East Side and at the entrances of mines in the north of England, West Virginia and Montana.

Working people have been kept in line this way for one heck of a long time.


#9

I'm poor as shit, but I only work one week in three. It's a trade-off I'm absolutely fine with.


#10

An aquaintance once remarked, by way of taking out and terminating a tedious 'zOMG are teachers total slackers because they get summer vacation?' discussion, "The difference between 'vacation' and 'unemployment' is your bank balance at the time."

It is indeed perverse that there are people who are working their asses off to make money they won't have time to spend in any reasonably hands-on way; but calling the condition of somebody who simply can't wring more than 20-30 hours a week out of their shit job 'leisure' betrays an unfamiliarity with poverty so profound that it probably feels at home on the WSJ editorial pages and could be cured only by a holiday in Cambodia or ontological reassignment to the role of a despised minority with several drug convictions and no marketable skills.


#11

"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because
they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta,
because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the
Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta
children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children.
And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …"


#12

This is a simple matter of the more-affluent being able to call their lunch-meetings "work."

I'm sure Donald Trump would tell you he works twenty-five-hour days.


#13

Ding! And the other side of this is that the "work" many of these "rich" types do is not anything most of us would describe as work anyway. So their "work" consists of long leisurely lunches and infinite numbers of sleepy meetings while our "leisure" consists of the desperate attempt to scrape enough money together to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, let alone be able to afford healthcare or other "luxuries".


#14

I could be bothered to read the piece, as its at The Economist and I stopped being able to read their drivel years ago. But even the conclusions quoted in the OP are nonsensical:

"There are a number of explanations. One has to do with what economists
call the “substitution effect”. Higher wages make leisure more
expensive: if people take time off they give up more money. Since the
1980s the salaries of those at the top have risen strongly, while those
below the median have stagnated or fallen. Thus rising inequality
encourages the rich to work more and the poor to work less."

First of all, high wage earners get paid when they take time off, so there is no trade-off for them. And the final hilarity shows, once again, the disconnect between how the poor actually live and how they are portrayed by the capitalist classes. The poor don't choose to work less because they earn less, they're forced to work more (if they can find the hours of course). But of course, in this brave neoliberal world we are all "rational economic agents" that choose to work less when we earn less because that is the rational response when weighing the cost-benefit of the "value" of the hourly wage versus an hour of leisure time.


#15

LUCKY DUCKY!

[Body is invalid; try to be a little more descriptive]

okay.


#16

A demographic called the "working poor" seems not to have occurred yet to the good people at Oxford.


#17

My "real job" pays barely above minimum wage, but the truth is that I actually love what I do there and work for people I respect. It also leaves me all the time I need to pursue everything else I enjoy.

There are times the poverty gets to me, but overall, I'm reasonably happy with the choice I've made. It's only when it comes to things like medical care and retirement....


#18

I think the cited difference in job satisfaction is a distortion caused by wages. Maybe it's just my own bias, but in the past I found manual labour to be more satisfying than "thinking" work. But the wages I could get for it wouldn't even pay for daycare.


#19

Let me tell you what Cliven Bundy knows about the negro. Wait, wait, this is on-topic, I swear!

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr.
Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas,
“and in front of that government house the door was usually open and
the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a
dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They
didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for
their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they
do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young
men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve
often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having
a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government
subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”


#20

From the linked Economist article:

"The occupations in which people are least happy are manual and service jobs requiring little skill. Job satisfaction tends to increase with the prestige of the occupation."

Manual jobs are significantly more dangerous than desk jobs, and nowadays pay less. Service jobs actually do require skills, thankyouverymuch, and an elephant's hide due to the atrocious way customers will treat you. And again, they pay less than a white collar job in an office.

Meanwhile, more prestige generally means better pay, safer and nicer working conditions, and more freedom to make choices while working instead of toeing a line.

So let's look at an example where this falls apart: college and university teaching in the U.S.

Being a professor used to be more prestigious than being in business (yes, I know I'm dating myself). If you were smart and hard-working, you went on to college and grad or professional school....if you were a "C" student, you went to work in a business somewhere and hoped to work your way up. Professors had guaranteed careers via tenure, which used to be a realizable goal for most PhDs. Sure, maybe the pay wasn't as great as non-academic careers requiring higher level degrees -- doctors and lawyers -- but the work was still respected and prestigious. It meant something, to be a professor.

Now, most "professors" are adjuncts. Basically, temp workers. Their hourly earnings, based on actual time spent, comes out to less than minimum wage. No benefits, no guarantee of employment past a 10- or 16-week contract (based on term length). Almost no chance at a tenure-track position, to say nothing of tenure itself. They're miserable, which they have every right to be.

Job satisfaction isn't really tied to skill level at all: it's tied to salary, working conditions, and opportunities for a long term career in which one can use and hone those skills.