The Working Rich Now Have Less Leisure Than The Poor
Interesting piece in The Economist, noting that it's the rich who now don't have so many breaks from their work time. (Of course, they are more able to choose to take them if they want.) The piece gives a number of reasons, but here's an excerpt I found interesting:
The status of work and leisure in the rich world has changed since the days of "Downton Abbey". Back in 1899 Thorstein Veblen, an American economist who dabbled in sociology, offered his take on things. He argued that leisure was a "badge of honour". Rich people could get others to do the dirty, repetitive work--what Veblen called "industry". Yet Veblen's leisure class was not idle. Rather they engaged in "exploit": challenging and creative activities such as writing, philanthropy and debating.
Veblen's theory needs updating, according to a recent paper from researchers at Oxford University*. Work in advanced economies has become more knowledge-intensive and intellectual. There are fewer really dull jobs, like lift-operating, and more glamorous ones, like fashion design. That means more people than ever can enjoy "exploit" at the office. Work has come to offer the sort of pleasures that rich people used to seek in their time off. On the flip side, leisure is no longer a sign of social power. Instead it symbolises uselessness and unemployment.
The evidence backs up the sociological theory. The occupations in which people are least happy are manual and service jobs requiring little skill. Job satisfaction tends to increase with the prestige of the occupation. Research by Arlie Russell Hochschild of the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that as work becomes more intellectually stimulating, people start to enjoy it more than home life. "I come to work to relax," one interviewee tells Ms Hochschild. And wealthy people often feel that lingering at home is a waste of time. A study in 2006 revealed that Americans with a household income of more than $100,000 indulged in 40% less "passive leisure" (such as watching TV) than those earning less than $20,000.
Personally, I find that I am the most productive when I have a ton on my plate.