Culture Fail

By Jaime Fuller

WorkersIt’s interesting that one of the world’s richest countries is such a miser about paid holidays and vacations. That’s right…I’m talking about the United States. Labor Day is in our wake, and who doesn’t love a three-day weekend? It’s a nice gesture to honor the contributions all workers make to the country. But is one measly day off really all that hard work is worth? 

Among developed countries, the United States is the only one that does not legally require a single paid holiday or vacation day. In the European Union, at least four work weeks of paid vacation are required by law. In contrast, one in four Americans doesn’t get a single paid day off. 

Does this mean we are more productive as a country? Not exactly. Other countries that have a similar GDP per hour worked provide over 30 days of paid vacation per year to employees. And Americans now work 160 hours more each year than in 1976. That’s equivalent to one whole month of labor. According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), long hours can inhibit hourly productivity, as well as efficiency and innovation. 

It seems a little silly to sacrifice our health, happiness, and sanity for the sake of making companies or ourselves richer. Japan has even invented a word for death from overwork; we have a problem. The World Health Organization has deemed the U.S. the most anxious country, and it’s obvious. Being so pressured to work and make money is costing us dearly. We should make enough money to live relatively comfortably, but that can be done in a more relaxed, less time-consuming manner.

Workers should get a Labor Day every week. Eight-hour days are grueling, and five consecutive days of that is enough to exhaust you for the entire weekend, during which you usually need to catch up on housework and other errands before you start the routine all over again. 

Better yet, we should have shorter work days. People could work four to five hours a day, be incredibly productive and efficient, and the work could be spread among more people—effectively reducing unemployment. Everyone would have free time to do activities they enjoy and socialize with friends and family. There would be plenty of time for exercise and cooking healthy meals. The savings in health care costs alone would be tremendous. All in all, we would be less stressed and act kinder to each other.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

“The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered, ‘Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.’”