Labor Issues: Are Americans Overworked?

Words: 1394
Topic: Law


Human beings around the world have to work in a bid to earn a living. It is an important aspect of human survival, and even the Holy Bible advises people to work, and anyone who does not work is advised not to eat probably because the earth is no place for lazy people.

However, due to the rapid changes that are taking place in the contemporary world, many people have to work harder and longer in a bid to earn more, and this aspect has both negative and positive impacts on productivity. For instance, despite working overtime having an advantage, as one is in a position to make more money, it has serious negative impacts in terms of health, happiness, and the overall quality of life.

Overworking underscores a situation whereby the labor force of a certain organization works for many hours past the stipulated normal working hours (Joel 30). This situation is affecting both the developing and developed countries, including the world’s biggest economy, viz. the United States of America, and on that note, Americans are overworked.

How Americans are overworked

The United States is one of the most developed countries in the world, but despite this aspect, many citizens of this wonderful nation have to work harder and longer to keep their jobs especially after the 2008/2009 economic crisis. This trend is worrying, as recent studies indicate that American workers are spending more time at work as compared to previous years.

In the 1970s, the average working hours for an American worker stood at 35 hours per week, but this standard has changed as the years progressed and today the normal working hours for the workers has changed drastically to 46 hours per week.

However, regrettably, the wages have stagnated despite working much harder and longer, and since the 1970s, the average income for middle families has declined by 13% (Schor 160). In addition to this situation, twenty-four percent of workers work for six or more extra hours per week without compensating for the extra work. Most Americans have to cope with this situation as the unsatisfied ones have been laid off.

The contributing factor to this situation is the advances in technology and the global 24/7 economy that has brought about increased competition and escalated work demands, which have left the workers with too much workload (Fantasia and Voss 230). In essence, American workers can be said to have become hostages of their jobs over the past few years, as they are afraid to ask for time off for fear of losing their jobs and livelihoods.

The slogan for this nation seems to be let’s get to work America’, which underscores why many working adults have substituted their social lives with their jobs. This aspect is evident as people report to work on weekends and work on reports until late in the night as failure to impress the employers with outstanding work might lead to one’s dismissal.

The outcomes of employees being overworked

The success of a nation depends on its working force, as workers are the major contributors to the economy. Skillful, committed, and hardworking employees are likely to propel a country’s development and economic levels to greater lengths.

The United States is such one country with the skilled and hardworking workforce, and this element explains why the country is highly developed, as compared to other developed and developing countries around the globe. However, the main problem lies with the probability that the American workers are slowly becoming workaholics, albeit not by choice.

It will be fair to say that some of the citizens are workaholics by choice while the bigger percentage have been forced by circumstances to work for longer hours despite their paychecks stagnating for a considerably long time.

Human beings need to work for a certain period and take a rest in a bid to be more effective, precise, and accurate. Hence, reports of the workers being chronically overworked should be of great concern to the employees, employers, and the entire society.

It is evident that human beings cannot work for long strenuous hours and still be in a position to concentrate at work. A comparison between two groups of workers, one that is overworked and the other that works for normal hours will show that the one that is overworked is likely to make many errors in the workplace as compared to the other group.

This observation holds as working for longer hours hampers the ability to concentrate and make informed decisions as the mental activity becomes affected. Thus, a huge workload amongst American workers is one of the major contributors to the increased levels of stress and anxiety in society (Derickson 110).

Hence, regardless of gender or vocation, work-related stress has been on the rise, which has pushed some of the affected people into engaging in some destructive behaviors like taking drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes to muddle through the discomfort that is associated with this kind of chronic stress.

Unfortunately, the health issues related to overwork include problems like obesity, which is linked to sitting for longer hours. Therefore, by working for long hours, people have forsaken healthy living like taking exercises, which are beneficial to their overall health status.

The result of this trend is the increasing number of obese people who suffer from life-threatening diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Hence, the presumably increased economy in the United States is at the expense of the suffering of the workforce.

American workers as compared to other countries

In terms of workers’ happiness, the United States does not feature in the top of the list, as other developed countries have advanced more in this area. These countries include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, and Canada (Whybrow 99). This realization shows that the old saying that money cannot buy happiness’ is true as despite making more money, the United States has failed to make it to the top ten when it comes to workers’ happiness.

This aspect has affected happiness amongst employees as they are forced to work for longer hours in a bid to increase productivity. The unhappiness is triggered more by the fact that despite the workers being dissatisfied with their jobs, it is impossible to shift to greener pastures where there are favorable working conditions, as the rate of creation of new jobs is low.

The combination of both stagnant wages and long working hours seems to have affected the happiness and morale of the American workers. Hence, it is necessary for employers to come up with measures aimed at motivating the employees so that they can be self-motivated, which will be of great benefit to the entire nation at large.

Surprisingly, out of the twenty-one economically developed countries, the United States is the only country that does not recommend employers to pay their employees during vacation time. Perhaps, this aspect is one of the reasons why there is limited vacation time for employees as it is better to work for the better part of the year for self-sustenance.

In contrast to the United States, some other developed countries even suggest that employers should pay an additional amount of money to the employees to cater for the expenses that they are likely to incur during their holidays. This aspect shows that the country has lagged as compared to other developed countries in issues like wages, maternity leaves, and holidays that a worker should enjoy.

Thus, there is a need for change in the American employment arena if the workforce is expected to change its attitude towards work. In contemporary times, having leisure time is like a basic need for most people.

Hence, limiting the leisure time of workers amounts to denying them an opportunity to socialize and have fun. Therefore, the United States’ employment laws should be amended for the country to embrace the changes that are taking place and keep pace with the other developed countries for the benefit of its hardworking citizens.


It is advisable for employers to avoid exploiting workers, especially the low-income earners, by overworking them as this aspect can have devastating effects on the workers’ lives.

Instead, employers should properly remunerate employees well, as this move will motivate workers’ to work harder towards the realization of the organizations’ aspirations. Conventionally, the American worker is overworked, but the situation can change with the goodwill of the involved stakeholders.

Works Cited

Derickson, Alan. Dangerously Sleepy: Overworked Americans and the Cult of Manly Wakefulness, Pennsylvania: University Pennsylvania Press, 2013. Print.

Fantasia, Rick, and Kim Voss. Hard Work: Remaking the American Labor Movement, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Print.

Joel, Lewin. Every Employee’s Guide to the Law, New York: Pantheon, 2001. Print.

Schor, Juliet. The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need, New York: Harper Perennial, 1999. Print.

Whybrow, Peter. American Mania: When More is Not Enough, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2006. Print.