Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 7 July 2004

To work or not to work - and for how long

Now I choose not to work any more, so all of this is somewhat academic to me. It seems that people in the UK work around 100 hours a year (yes, really!) longer than fellow-workers in any other EU country. However, even in the UK this averages out to only just over 32 hours a week; if you exclude the 4-weeks annual paid holiday allowed to most people than the average rises to only around 35 hours - hardly a great trauma, I would have thought. Of course, certain categories of people do work a lot longer, junior hospital doctors perhaps being the notorious example.

During my working life I certainly worked for a LOT longer than that, and there was no such thing as 'overtime'; of course, I was very well paid so I think it was a pretty fair trade-off. I did once work for about nine months without a day off, and for about 15 hours a day for most of that time (about 105 hours a week) and that was indeed pretty tough, but we had a special project to fulfil and that's just the way it was - I had an extra month 'ex gratia' vacation at the end of it as partial compensation and as I was time-poor and money-rich that was a far more valuable reward so far as I was concerned. Of course almost none of this was within Europe, except for about four years in France, but even there I worked something like 55 or 60 hours a week, admittedly with a full 2-day weekend (this was a luxury for me as in most other places I had only 1 or 1 1/2 days at the weekend).

EU average working times contrast starkly with many countries outside Europe, specially the US where most people only have around 2 (or perhaps 3) weeks paid holiday a year. My boss for some of the time I was in Paris was an American, from the US arm of the organisation I worked for, and he was on a US-style contract so had only 3 weeks vacation a year, whereas I had 6 weeks.

My attitude to this whole thing can be summed up succinctly. I never bothered about watching a clock, I worked hard, long and productively. I was well rewarded. I no longer need to work and choose not to. We all make choices in life; I am glad I made the choices I did.

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