Working hours decreased immensely in the industrialized world. This post presents several data sets on weekly and annual working hours. Additionally it presents data on the working hours in hunter-gatherer and other premodern-societies.
# Empirical View
# The Decline of Working Hours per Year after the Industrial Revolution
The researchers Michael Huberman and Chris Minns published estimates of weekly work hours going back to the late 19th century. This data – shown in the following visualization – shows that over this time working hours have steeply declined. Full-time workers in these countries work 20 or even 30 hours less every week than in the 19th century.
# Working Hours in Hunter-Gatherer and Other Premodern Societies
Anthropologic studies of hunter-gatherer and subsistence cultivation societies show that labor inputs are small. This can be seen from the table below taken from Clark.1
The author is surprised by the short work days especially because some societies, as the Hiwi from Venezuela often suffer from hunger and although they achieve ‘high returns from each hour of work’ they still generally forage for less than 2 hours.
Generally the work time in hunter-gatherer societies is lower than in agrarian societies.
|Group or location||Group or activity||Hours|
|Tatuyo (a)||Shifting cultivation, hunting||7.6|
|Mikea (b)||Shifting cultivation, foraging||7.4|
|Abelam (d)||Subsistence agriculture, hunting||6.5|
|Machiguenga (f)||Shifting cultivation, foraging, hunting||6.0|
|Xavante (g)||Shifting cultivation, hunting||5.9|
|Aruni (h)||Subsistence agriculture||5.2|
|Mekranoti (g)||Shifting cultivation, foraging, hunting||3.9|
|Shipibo (i)||Subsistence agriculture, fishing||3.4|
|Bemba (j)||Shifting cultivation, hunting||3.4|
|Yanomamo (a)||Shifting cultivation, foraging, hunting||2.8|
|Britain, 1800 (l,m)||Farm laborers, paid labor||8.2|
|Building workers, paid labor||8.2|
|London, 1800 (n)||All workers, paid labor||9.1|
|United Kingdom, 2000 (o)||All workers aged 16–64||8.8|
# Correlates, Determinants and Consequences
# As productivity increases working hours decrease
Productivity increases also entailed decreasing work hours per week. This relationship – in the cross section – is shown in the following data visualization.
# As productivity in the household increased women have fewer working hours in the household
The interactive version of the upper part of this chart can be found here.