When Did Americans Stop Dreaming of Leisure Time?
In the 1950s, we thought we'd have 30-hour workweeks by now: Matt Novak
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Apr 11, 2014 12:39 PM CDT
   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – "Tell your children not to be surprised if the year 2000 finds 35 or even a 20-hour work week fixed by law." That prediction was made by the AP in 1950. In 1967, Walter Cronkite predicted we'd also be enjoying month-long vacations by the year 2000. Today, one Swedish town is indeed trying out the 30-hour week and France has banned work email after 6pm for many workers, but if an American proposed something like that, they'd be met with derision, observes Matt Novak at Paleofuture. "Want to spend more time with your family? … Move to France, you hippie! I'm sure your kids will love the Baguette Hall of Fame!"

Decades ago, futurists expected technology to so improve productivity that workers would be afforded leisure time—and that was seen as a good thing. Worker productivity has indeed risen 400% since 1950, but real wages haven't risen at all. America remains just about the only industrial nation without guaranteed paid time off of any kind, and those "lucky enough to have a job … are working their asses off to keep them." The problem is that we've politicized the way we talk about work and labor. "We forget that paid time off used to be as American as Mickey Mantle riding an eagle through the Grand Canyon with two fistfuls of apple pie." Click for Novak's full column.

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Showing 3 of 28 comments
RufusT.Firefly
Apr 13, 2014 4:38 PM CDT
It's all based on fear. Fear of being labeled "lazy." Fear of falling behind other countries. Fear of losing one's job. Fear of another person getting further ahead than us. Fear that employees won't provide every single moment (and more) of their life to a company. Fear that there won't be enough for one to retire comfortably. Fear of not having enough money to look cool. Fear of not being patriotic. Fear of there being no safety net. Fear of knowing too much about how the world really works whereby our conscience forces us into taking a stand to make things better. Fear, fear and more fear.
Ezekiel 25:17
Apr 12, 2014 7:08 PM CDT
I always dream of leisure time when I'm asleep or slacking off at work. (a derivation of Rodney Dangerfield.)
gomer99
Apr 12, 2014 2:04 PM CDT
If you think "leisure time" is spending $20K to take the family to Disney World.......Flying to Bimini or Cancun.....Renting a $380/day condo at the seashore for two weeks........ You are a brainwashed droid that believes advertising. Leisure time to most Americans is going camping at a national forest on the weekend, hunting pheasants in October, seeing a ballgame....or just kicking back at the lake while the kids run around. We are all getting as much leisure time as we want. Only the vested interests are doing the whining