Americans worked a collective 270 billion hours in 2017, 1,739 hours for every worker.1 These numbers mark an extraordinary burden of labor in our country: millions of people are spending far too much of their waking lives ensnared in needlessly excessive hours of work.
Too many Americans have no vacation days, or very few, or they are not paid enough to enjoy them properly. Too many Americans work hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime, or are forced to choose between parenthood and employment. Too many Americans are spending their twilight years in front of a cash register because they can’t afford a real retirement.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With some simple and easy reforms, the United States could greatly increase the leisure time enjoyed by its workers. America has long since solved the hard, labor-intensive problems of economic production. This is a very rich country; we can afford to make sensible and morally urgent changes to our labor system.
In this paper, I will outline some of the problems plaguing the American labor market, and then suggest several policy solutions to fix them.