The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Steady increase of hours worked

Jul 19, 2004

A new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) confirms that on average, people in the U.S. are putting in 20% more hours of work than they did in 1970. It also shows that in the same period, the number of hours worked in all the other industrialized countries, except for Canada, decreased. In Japan, for example, annual work hours declined 17% and in France they declined by 24%.

All those extra hours that workers in the U.S. are putting in are an important indication of how much our standard of living is in decline. This is in line with the steady erosion of our benefits and wages, which in turn pressures workers to put in more hours, to retire later or never, to push more family workers into the work force – just to make ends meet.

In other industrialized countries, workers have won at least a few more minimal social protections that are even written into the law, including several weeks of vacation and many more legal holidays, as well as health benefits and retirement benefits.

Of course, the ability to grant these benefits has nothing to do with the wealth of the society. After all, the U.S. is by far the wealthiest country in the world, and over the last 30 years the wealth workers have produced has increased tremendously.

But the wealth has been stolen to such an extent that working people not only aren't progressing any more – we are going backwards. This is one of the consequences of the fact that the working class in this country has carried out few big fights for nearly three decades, and no widespread mobilization across the whole working class. This lack of mobilization has given the capitalist class a freer hand to take, take, take.

The time for the working class in this country to mobilize and carry out big struggles is more than past due.