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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Some Countries Realize You Have A Life Outside Work. The U.S. Isn't One Of Them

Posted by on Apr. 18, 2014 at 9:52 AM
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1 mom liked this

Some Countries Realize You Have A Life Outside Work. The U.S. Isn't One Of Them.

 

Working in the U.S. ain't what it used to be.

While other countries are coming up with new ways to promote work-life balance, such as France's latest move to limit after-hours email, the U.S. seems to be falling behind. It's been some time since the nation once responsible for creating weekends and the 40-hour work week made any sweeping changes to improve the working lives of its greatest living resource: people.

And it's not just because Americans are workaholics. Instead, it might have to with what has been called the productivity squeeze or speedup. High unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession has enabled companies to squeeze more out of fewer workers, all while paying them roughly the same amount. It's great for corporate profits -- which hit a record high last year -- but not so much for workers.

But the consequences may be beginning to show. A 2012 poll found that less than half of American workers are totally satisfied with their jobs. Meanwhile, protests over wages and working conditions for low-wage employees have spread throughout the U.S. since 2012.

Here are eight ways U.S. workers have it rough compared to other countries:

 

1. We have full-time jobs that don't pay a living wage.

In Australia, the minimum wage is around $15.30 (in U.S. dollars). Despite this, both the country's poverty and unemployment rates are lower than in the U.S.

minimum wage protest

 

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to a proposed $10.10 still faces opposition from multiple high-profile members of Congress, as well as corporations. Such a hike would would pull around 5 million people out of poverty, according to a recent study. Even so, Walmart has said that it isn't even "considering" raising the minimum wage for its workers.

 

2. We force fired or unemployed workers to race against the clock.

 

In Denmark, workers who lose their job are guaranteed 90 percent of their original salary for two years, provided they participate in programs to demonstrate "labor market availability."

 

job seekers

 

About 1,500 people seeking employment wait in line to enter a job fair March 28, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

 

Meanwhile, in the U.S., an estimated 2.3 million people have now lost unemployment benefits after an extension for the long-term unemployed was allowed to expire in December. While the Senate has voted to renew the extension, efforts to enact the law have been stymied by political bargaining from House Republicans. Long-term unemployment has been linked to increased risk of chronic health conditions and even death.

 

3. We may never get the chance to retire.

 

In India, formal employers with more than 20 workers are required to give employees with at least five years at the company a retirement gratuity equal to 15 days of wages for each year worked.

 

Meanwhile, in the U.S., many workers have little or no money saved for retirement. While such a gratuity may be less preferable than employer matched saving plans like 401(k)s, only about half of U.S. workers were employed by companies that sponsored them in 2011, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Instead, 37 percent of workers say they plan on working until they get too sick or die, a 2012 survey found.

 

4. We barely take any time off, in part because we aren't given any.

 

In Portugal and Austria, workers are guaranteed 35 days off a year by law, including holidays and voluntary vacation time.

 

praia da rocha

 

A crowded beach in Praia da Rocha, Portugal

 

Meanwhile, the U.S. is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time by law. While every country in the European Union guarantees at least four weeks off per year, a full-time American worker with 25 years experience gets just 15.7 paid vacation days each year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What's more, Americans left an average of 9.2 unused vacation days on the table in 2012, Harris Interactive found.

 

Taking such a small amount of vacation time is so engrained in the American work ethic that a recent Cadillac ad even celebrated it:

 

 

5. Work is such an important part of life that Americans are expected to choose it over their children.

 

In Sweden, parents are allowed to take up to 480 days of at least partially paid leave to spend with their kids until they turn eight.

 

Meanwhile, in the U.S., even taking a mere three days of paternity leave might get you publicly shamed. That's what happened recently to professional baseball player Daniel Murphy. After taking the MLB's three guaranteed days of paternity leave, announcers Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa suggested that Murphy should have chosen work over being there for the birth of his child. Paternity leave helps the economy by enabling women to stay involved in the workforce. Meanwhile, maternity leave has been linked to healthier children and lower rates of depression in mothers.

 

daniel murphy

 

Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was criticized by some for missing two games in order to be with his wife after she gave birth.

 

6. We don't take enough time to unplug.

 

In France, a "right of disconnecting" agreement was recently made, limiting tech workers' hours so they don't have to check email off the clock.

 

Meanwhile, in the U.S., 83 percent of smartphone users said they check work email after work hours, according to a 2011 study. Doing so can have a number of negative effects, including added stress.

 

7. And we don't even really break for lunch.

 

In Spain, lunch breaks can last up to 3 hours, for some, including a mid-day siesta.

 

Meanwhile, in the U.S, over a quarter of Americans say they rarely take lunch breaks, according to a 2012 study by Right Management. Of those who do, 39 percent said they eat at their desks. While even Spain may be cutting back on full-on siestas, experts agree that a designated lunch break can help boost worker productivity and reduce stress.

 

8. And we're only making the archetypal "starving artist" even hungrier.

 

In Germany, funding for artists comes out to roughly $20 per person, while those with art degrees can continue to receive government support so long as they continue to seek out grants.

 

german art

 

A general view shows sculptures made of waste material titled 'Trash People ' by German artist HA Schult.

 

Meanwhile, in the U.S., funding for the arts comes out to just 41 cents per person. Still, the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides government grants to artists, faces repeated attacks, including from former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Last year, money distributed to art projects via NEA grants declined by 5 percent.

 

 

 

 

 

by on Apr. 18, 2014 at 9:52 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Sisteract
by Whoopie on Apr. 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM
5 moms liked this

All true.

We have an unhealthy approach to work- and lots of people who hate their jobs because there is never any downtime.

There is little work/family life balance in this country. And many of us have more work to do while on the clock, than the hours allotted. At my job, we often run around like chickens with our heads cut off. Make sure you make everyone happy and do not ever make a mistake...so unrealistic.

Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Apr. 18, 2014 at 10:41 AM

 True

stormcris
by Christy on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:23 AM
2 moms liked this

Yep.

It's killing us too.

One thing not up there but I especially hate is how any business thinks it has a right to be in your private life. For a country that values freedom, it is such a bad example.

Cutenessmom
by Bronze Member on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:32 AM

WHY I love ot be a EX_PAT!   Call me a traitor I  sing long live  who evers queen if I get a life like that!

momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:34 AM
1 mom liked this

I agree with the list.  I'm lucky that most of my work is at home, and that DH can telecommute a couple of days per week, so we get to have much more family time than most.  

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM


Quoting stormcris:

Yep.

It's killing us too.

One thing not up there but I especially hate is how any business thinks it has a right to be in your private life. For a country that values freedom, it is such a bad example.

When my husband was a young person, working his way up, his company [the one he worked for] designated our family as their "poster family." They sent us, mostly the hubs and me, around the world to "represent" them in business dealings. I would have to arrange time off from my job (aka use my vacation time) and get family sitters for 2 week stretches of time (we had NO family in the area, so sometimes my mom would also take time off work).

I finally told the hubs enough. When I  start receiving a paycheck from your company, I will let them dictate my time.


tanyainmizzou
by on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:43 AM

People want 4 week paid vacations but then complain about the prices of bras and organic foods and gasoline and shoes and movie tickets.

sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:44 AM
1 mom liked this

 This has been debunked before

The prices wouldn't be raised dramatically to do these things

Quoting tanyainmizzou:

People want 4 week paid vacations but then complain about the prices of bras and organic foods and gasoline and shoes and movie tickets.

 

mommyxdos
by Member on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:47 AM
3 moms liked this
I took a class in college about labor law and it really is sad how bad the US is about rest and relaxation benefits. Not to mention we have the some of the worst maternal and paternal leave rights.
meriana
by Platinum Member on Apr. 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Yep, it's all about make as much money for the company as one can because company profits and CEO pay along with stock holder dividends are much, much more important than one's family or even their health.

These days companies are pretty much always looking for a means by which to decrease worker wages as well as the number of employees.

A lot of companies are also ditching traditional retirement plans in favor of 401K plans. Those are great as long as the stock market remains stable but what happens to a person close to retirement age when the market crashes and they lose the majority of their savings as a result. Good bye happy, comfortable retirement.

The article didn't mention how there are those Congress critters who periodically want to raise the retirement age to somewhere in a person's 70's.

It's all what happens when corporations have more power (due to their pocket books)  to influence lawmakers than the general population all put together

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