The Leisure Agenda Will Give Americans Less Work and More Free Time


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People’s Policy Project, in collaboration with the newly-formed Gravel Institute, has released its latest major paper: “The Leisure Agenda.” Ryan Cooper authored the paper. Jon White designed the paper.

The paper begins by documenting how overworked Americans are relative to people in similarly-developed countries. The average American worker puts in 269 more market work hours each year than the country’s level of hourly productivity would predict.

Major policy sources of overwork are then identified: lack of mandated vacation and sick leave, lack of parental leave, sparse unemployment benefits, and a failing retirement system that’s forcing more and more elderly people to spend their golden years in the workforce.

Finally a suite of policies aimed at curbing overworked are proposed:

  1. Increase the number of federal holidays and help ensure employers comply with new and old federal holidays by requiring that they pay workers 1.5x their normal pay if they schedule them to work on holidays.
  2. Mandate that employers provide 4 weeks of paid vacation each year.
  3. Provide public benefits for paid leave and sick leave.
  4. Increase the income-replacement rate of our unemployment benefit scheme and introduce a new basic unemployment benefit that all jobseekers are eligible for even if they are otherwise ineligible for ordinary earnings-related unemployment benefits.
  5. Increase Social Security old-age benefit levels until the elderly employment rate falls to the OECD average.

Through these measures, Americans can reduce their workload by tens of billions of hours a year, creating more free time for what they will: personal projects, hobbies, entertainment, family, and friends.