From the Left



Do Americans even want time off?

Froma Harrop on

During the Great Depression, a number of big American companies moved to 30-hour weeks. One of them, Kellogg's in Battle Creek, Michigan, adopted a kind of compromise. The workweek was reduced to 30 hours, but the company paid the employees for 35 hours. Interestingly, Kellogg's found that these workers had become more productive during the hours worked.

Those holding multiple jobs -- now about a quarter of U.S. workers -- are far rarer in Canada and France, according to Gallup. Why would that be?

Perhaps the stronger social safety nets in those countries make ordinary people feel more economically secure. Perhaps a consumer culture flashing luxury in our faces makes Americans see some expenditures not as extravagances but as basic necessities. Work is how they can afford them.

"Other things being equal," de Graaf adds, "when Americans are given the choice of time or money, most will choose the money."

But looking at the experience in Amador County, it's possible that we just don't understand the value of time off because we've had so little experience with it. If so, what a sad commentary on the American way of life.



Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at


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