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on-the-work-life-balance

There’s been for some years now a push that we should all reconsider our ideas about the work life balance. You know the sort of thing, the mantras about “ever longer working hours” and the need for these to be limited by governmental fiat. The logic has always rather fallen down in that we all have ever more leisure and thus must be working shorter hours but then logic has never been either a strong point for politicians in search of a cause nor useful in politics generally.

The latest manifestation of this desire to limit freedom has been the insistence that we should ban anyone from working more than 48 hours in a week: something rather brought in via the back door through the European Union. I’ve never really quite grasped why adults cannot be trusted to make these decisions for themselves really:

Concerns about the economy and rising unemployment mean workers are taking on extra work to bring in an additional income. As many as 2.7 million people, or 15 per cent of workers, have a second job, according to the findings by price comparison website uSwitch.com. Workers are also spending longer at their main job to earn some extra money, up to 29 per cent compared to 19 per cent a year ago.

You see, it’s not just that different people have different opinions of what constitutes a decent work life balance, it is that the same people in different circumstances do (with the grandchildren staying mine has certainly changed). Those two variables simply cannot be happily dealt with in some centrally ordained number of hours that we may work.

Best simply to leave it to the people themselves: as we largely have done for decade upon decade. It does tend to work out that as incomes rise some fraction (eyeballing the numbers, perhaps 10-20%) of that rise in income is taken as greater leisure the rest in more physical consumption of goods and services paid for through work. If that’s the way people in general want to take their higher incomes why not simply leave them to get on with it?