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 Staff

Posted Apr 11, 2014 12:39 PM CDT

(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.

  (Shutterstock)
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Who in 1900 thought that by mid-century there would be government-regulated pensions and a work week limited to 40 hours? A minimum wage, child labor curbs and unemployment compensation? - The Associated Press, 1950

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